Shepherded inside a courtroom shackled in iron leg cuffs, 11 Basarwa from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve, charged with hunting and killing protected game without licenses, cut the image of a persecuted lot.
Molepolole magistrate, Dumisane Basupi, on Monday cautioned and discharged the accused 11 in a case that threatened to open old wounds.
Delivering his sentence, the magistrate said that he was aware that he was faced with a controversial matter, adding that he on the 28 of July received a letter from barrister Gordon Bennett, who represented Basarwa in the landmark 2006 Central Kalahari Game Reserve case.
The magistrate stated that, in his letter to the court, Bennett contends that the High Court had found that it was unconstitutional for the accused not to be issued with special licenses.
“Unfortunately, he does not in this letter state that the three accused persons have a right to hunt,” said the magistrate.
The magistrate stated that in the evidence placed before him there was no evidence that the three accused people had ever applied for special hunting licenses.
He said that by warning and cautioning the accused, it was not to grant them permission to go out and hunt without permission.
“They, therefore, must apply for hunting licenses,” said the magistrate.
“I wish to advice the accused that if they are implicated in another similar matter they will not be exonerated,” he added.
The accused could neither speak English nor Setswana and relied on the services of a Sesarwa translation by Bontle Raseme who, for some time, stole the show as he related the magistrate’s verdict.
In the first case, Ntwayamogala Tshtha, along with his son, Ntatole Ntwayamogala, and Kebinetse Kgomo were convicted of hunting without licence.
The trio, arrested on July 17 this year, was accused of killing a giraffe and a gemsbok.
The magistrate also reprimanded and discharged Meno Tshiamo, Bannabothe Ntxew and another who were also charged with hunting without permission in the CKGR.
The four were charged with killing a giraffe.
The magistrate was unhappy at a statement made by one of the accused, Tsiamo, who told the court that there were just too many wild animals that he could not finish them and that his great grandfathers hunted and never finished them.
“It must be noted that if you hunt without a license it becomes unlawful,” he said.
He said that, like others, the accused persons were reprimanded and accordingly discharged.
“I wish we do not meet again under circumstances similar to this one,” warned the magistrate.
The magistrate further warned and discharged four others charged with hunting without licenses in the CKGR. The four had pleaded guilty to killing an eland.
In all the cases that were heard on the day, the magistrate ordered that all the meat recovered be forfeited to the state.