A Zimbabwean national who is facing charges of illegal possession of firearms on Monday told Francistown Magistrate Pride Rusike that he was not aware that the weapons found in his possession were arms of war. Nhlanhla Ndebele, together with 4 others, is charged with two counts of possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.
Ndebele, who had pleaded guilty to possession of the firearms and ammunition, told the court that he has never been a soldier and has never gone to war, such that he is not aware that the weapons found in his possession are arms of war as indicated in the police ballistic report.
He went on to absolve his co-accused, saying that they did not know anything about the weapons as he had only given them a lift from Zimbabwe.
He further explained that he used the fire arms and ammunition to defend himself as he is a businessman who transports cigarettes through countries like Angola and Namibia.
Ndebele also revealed in court during cross examination that when he came into Botswana he forgot that there were fire arms and live ammunition in the vehicle.
He said that he only came into Botswana because the fifth accused, Surprise Phiri, had requested that he accompany him to Gaborone to take his motor vehicle.
The accused is charged with four other men, Vusa Dube, Mthabisi Dube, Qhubani Ncube and Surprise Phiri. They were all arrested near Area G location in Francistown on the 3rd of August, 2009 after a tip off from the public that the men were in possession of firearms and might be planning a robbery.
Their vehicle was taken to Central Police station where three pistols and 23 live rounds were recovered from its engine. The arms and ammunition were then taken to the Botswana Defence Force for examination.
A ballistics report later revealed that they were weapons of war, and verified the ammunition as live.
Magistrate Rusike indicated that he was satisfied that the first accused had taken a plea of guilty for the possession of fire arms and ammunition. But the plea had to be altered as he had expressed dissatisfaction with the contents of the ballistics report.
“The accused does not agree with the contents of the ballistics report, therefore the plea of guilty should be changed,” he said.
All the other four accused men did not plead guilty to the charges. The trial date is set for November 30th and December 1st.