Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi has sentenced three foreign nationals to seven years imprisonment for unlawful possession of arms of war.
Sphamandla Witness Ncube (36) of Zimbabwe, Lucky Ndimande (34) and Sakhile Mkhize (26) of South Africa were also sentenced to another seven years for possession of ammunition, P3000 fine each for entering Botswana illegally. They also received a three-year suspended sentence for possession of stolen goods. The prison term sentences will run concurrently.
The accused were charged in November 2021 together with two Botswana nationals, Botlhe Gaopatwe (25) and Baliki Kemmonye Gaborone (35) who have since pleaded not guilty to the offences. The accused persons had been suspected to have been involved in some of the robberies that have been tormenting the country.
According to the facts from the state, on the 29th of October 2021 at or near Mosetse village in the Central District, the police at Dukwi Police Station received information from a source suggesting that there were some unknown men who were accommodated by one Botlhe Gaopatwe(one of the accused). Dukwi police officers decided to visit the place and on their way back a black Audi of registration B446 BPC caught their attention. The same car had been mentioned in the tip off from their source.
The registration number of the Audi was checked with the Vehicle Licensing System upon which it was revealed that the plate number was not genuine. The Audi was then escorted to Dukwi Police Station. The other police team proceeded to Mosetse and reached the home of the address they had been given. The moment they reached the homestead, one man fled the scene and five others remained in the house. The police officers identified themselves and explained their visit. A search was conducted in one of the rooms and 9mm live rounds of ammunition were found, type 54 pistol loaded with 8 live rounds ammunition, F98 pistol loaded with 10 fire rounds ammunition and a revolver.
When questioned about the items the five men denied knowledge of the items and said they were bought by a certain Tshepo who was not amongst them. Police Detective, one Inspector Jappie was allocated the matter to investigate and it turned out that the three accused persons who have since pleaded guilty to the charges, two among them were South Africans and one was a Zimbabwean national. The investigations further revealed that they entered Botswana illegally.
In furthering his investigations, the police detective sent the guns and ammunition that were found in possession of the accused to the ballistics laboratory which revealed that the items were indeed weapons of war and the accused had no license to possess them.
They were also found to be in possession of a black Audi SR6 with a fake Botswana registration number. Investigations revealed that the vehicle was stolen at gun point in South Africa and the three accused persons knew that the car they were in possession of was stolen.
During mitigation in court during trial, the three accused persons through their attorneys pleaded with the court to consider the fact that they were first offenders, had families to look after and had pleaded guilty to all the offences thereby not wasting the court’s time.
They also asked for forgiveness and pleaded with the court to not grant them a custodial sentence as it will break them and not rehabilitate them.
However, delivering the sentence on Friday in Francistown, Regional Magistrate Mopipi agreed with the mitigation as presented by the accused persons attorneys but said possession of arms of war and ammunition were serious offences in Botswana.
“The accused were found in possession of arms of war and ammunition. These offences carry a penalty of not less than five years or not more than 10 years imprisonment. They are serious offences. This court is concerned as there have been numerous reports of armed robberies country wide. The number of arms and ammunition found in their possession was in itself an aggravating factor,” said the Regional Magistrate.
“The court will therefore sentence the accused to 7 years imprisonment for unlawful possession of arms of war, 7 years for unlawful possession of ammunition, a fine of P3000 for entering Botswana at an ungazetted point of entry and three years holy suspended for possession of stolen property outside of the country failure. They should not commit a similar offence during this period.The prison terms on each count will run concurrently and shall be backdated from the first date of their incarceration,” she added
The other accused persons Gaopatwe and Gaborone who have since pleaded not guilty to the charges.
They have been granted P7000 bail and asked to provide two sureties who are required to also pay a cash bail of P5 000 each.
They are expected to be back in court on the 19th of May 2022. The state represented by K. Kapongo from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions(DPP) did not oppose their bail application. The three convicted foreign nationals were represented by Francistown based attorneys, Martin Maiba and Kagiso Jani.