The Gaborone High Court has freed convicted South African drug trafficker, Dewald Steyn de Beer. The 24-year-old was set free from a jail term by Justice Key Dingake yesterday, but was ordered to pay a P10, 000 fine.
De Beer was early last year convicted and sentenced to a one-year wholly suspended two-year jail term for importing drug ephedrine into the country. He was also ordered to pay a P10, 000 fine. He appealed the sentence.
When delivering judgment, Dingake said though conviction and sentencing was the discretion of a trial court and should rarely interfere with such decisions, the two-year jail term was too harsh.
“Offences such as drug trafficking are serious and should be dealt with accordingly, but in this case I felt the sentence was too harsh, more so that he was also fined and the state had confiscated the said drug from him,” he said.
Dingake explained that since De Beer was a first time offender, that factor should have played a role in his sentencing and especially that he pleaded guilty to the charge. On the return of drugs to the owner, which De Beer’s lawyer had indicated on the appeal, Dingake said the drugs would remain with the state but did not give further details on the matter.
De Beer who has been on bail since last year December was arrested on October 18, 2014, at Rail-Park Mall after police were alerted that he was secretly bringing 10kg of drugs into the country.
According to evidence that was put before court during trial, De Beers arrived in Botswana on October 17 at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport aboard Kenya Airways from India after connecting in Nairobi.
Upon arrival, he is said to have informed airport officials that he left his luggage in Nairobi and it would
However, on October 18, 2014 De Beer was arrested at Rail Park Mall in Gaborone by police officers after a tip-off that his en-route luggage could be containing drugs. The following day on October 19, he was taken to the airport to identify his luggage, which upon searching contained some whitish substance in plastic bags at the bottom of his suitcase.
After the drugs were sent to the police laboratory it was confirmed to be ephedrine. The prosecution presented before the court a police laboratory affidavit, customs clearance certificate, the certificate of weights and the ephedrine, which weight 9.663 kg as part of evidence.
However, a month after being convicted and sentenced, De Beer filed an appeal through his lawyer Friday Leburu at the High Court and was given bail pending his appeal and judgment.
Leburu had raised arguments during the appeal that the magistrate was too harsh when sentencing his client even though he was a first time offender and had cooperated with the police during his arrest. Meanwhile Ephedrine is a second scheduled drug under Drugs and Related Substance Act.
It is not a habit-forming drug, but a controlled drug that can be dispensed from a pharmacy because of its medicinal properties. Possession of ephedrine in Botswana does not constitute an offence, but its importation needs a certificate from the Director of Health Services. Moreover, a person dealing with drugs can notify the director of the drugs on transit 48hrs after they have passed the country.