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Mixed pleas in Zambians’ elephant tusk case

Ivory poaching is the scourge of the tourism heartland
MAUN: Two Zambian nationals who were arrested for possession of illegal elephants tusks have offered contrasting pleas to the charges.

Muwena Bisapa (45) from Indeko compound in Lusaka, Muti Ashilly from Malota Maramba in Livingstone, (38) and a Motswana national Atlarelang Maupo appeared in court on Tuesday charged with illegal possession of government trophies being elephant tusks.

Charges against Maupo were however withdrawn as the case began with prosecutors citing insufficient evidence. Bisapa and Ashilly are facing a single count of unlawful possession of elephant tusks, after being found in possession of 32.2 kilogrammes of ivory valued at P48,811.98.

The tusks were allegedly discovered in a specially designed hidden compartment of the two men’s car at Makalamabedi search point.

Ashilly pleaded not guilty to the charge while his co-accused Bisapa pleaded guilty while at the same time giving the court an impression that despite this, he was innocent.

Bisapa said that he was pleading guilty for possession of elephant tusks but made it clear that he was given the tusks by someone he did not name in court. He explained that his co-accused (Ashilly) who happened to

be the owner of the car they used, did not know anything about the tusks. Bisapa explained that he had come to Botswana to buy fish at Lake Ngami and was given the tusks which he transported in his co-accused’s car without Ashilly’s knowledge.

Magistrate Phandiwe Taka ruled that Bisapa’s plea of guilty while at the same time giving justifications was tantamount to a not guilty plea. Taka therefore stated that a plea of not guilty be entered for both accused.

Taka also ruled that the State should prepare facts and make them available to both the co-accused persons so that they make their minds up about how to plead. The two men were remanded in custody. The case will be convened for case management on September 23 and the State has indicated it will call three witnesses should the accused persons maintain their not guilty plea.

Khani Khani of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions represents the State while the Zambians are self represented.




A weak Botswana Media

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