Despite the absence of direct evidence, the Southern Regional Magistrate court has convicted four Bakgatla royals and three other men for vandalizing a Botswana Power Corporation meter box and destroying a Mascom Wireless Company tower valued at close to P1.4 million.
According to the court, Mothibe Linchwe, Mmusi Kgafela, Bakgatla Kgafela and Sekai Linchwe, all members of the Bakgatla royal family, strongly lobbied for the removal or destruction of the Mascom Wireless tower at a kgotla meeting held in Mochudi in October 2009.
The court said the accused were aiding and abetting the commission of a crime.
The court said that the accused were opposed to a proposal by Ray Molomo, calling for an amicable solution.
The transmissions from the tower were alleged to be a health hazard. The court, however, said there was ample evidence from the Land Board and Botswana Telecommunications Authority that this was clearly not the case.
Magistrate Barnabas Nyamazabo said the fact that Mothibe Lenchwe had at the said meeting summoned some members of the tribe’s regiments to go up the hill to view the tower to see what tools will be required to dismantle was enough evidence that there was intention to destroy the tower.
The magisatrate said that although Mothibe had not given an express direction that the tower be destroyed, his words were clearly inciting.
According to Nyamazabo, Mmusi Kgafela is culpable because he spoke against resolving the issue through litigation and instead called for the tower to be removed.
According to the court, not only did the seven accused call for the destruction of the tower but they also were part of the entourage that went up the hill to see the tower and assess what tools would be required to remove it.
The magistrate rejected the contention that the accused supported a proposal by one of the speakers at the Kgotla meeting in which the tribe agreed to approach the Minister of Lands and Housing to lobby for the tower to be removed.
He said that Kgosi Bana Sekai was clear in his address that taking the issue to the ministry would be unhelpful as he narrated numerous instances in which the royal family had been unsuccessful while attempting to court authorities. Nyamazabo said this showed that the accused regarded negotiations as an exercise in futility.
He said that if the accused had an intention of following the tribal resolution that the issue be resolved amicably, then there would never have been a need to go up the hill and inspect the tower immediately after the Kgotla meeting of the 3rd of October 2009.
The court said that even if negotiations between the minister and the tribe had reached a snag, no one, other than through a court order, was entitled to remove the tower.
The Magistrate said the accused had a secret plan to destroy the tower.
He said that although one of the prosecution’s witnesses gave a contradictory version of her story, it was not that fatal to her evidence. He said that it was also not necessary to prove a specific act that each accused person did.
He said that the fact that they made inciting comments in the presence of Police Officers who did not act did not mean their conduct was not wrong.
Nyamazabo also stated that it was unwise for the accused to elect to remain silent in the face of overwhelming evidence.
The court, however, acquitted the accused of the charge of criminal trespass.
The accused will return to court next week for mitigation and sentence.