FRANCISTOWN: Two Batswana men and a Malawian were on Tuesday sucked into the ugly cases of three men from Malawi who were each facing five counts of trafficking in persons.
The three Malawian men; John Mayodi, Enock Nkatha and Gaston Kamanga were arrested at Botswana’s Kazungula border with Zambia on July 11, 2016 with five people suspected to have been trafficked from Malawi en route to South Africa.
They were remanded in custody after they were arrested, but were released by Justice Bashi Moesi in January this year under strict bail conditions.
One of the bail conditions was that each of the accused must pay P15,000 bond and must each provide a surety (either being a citizen of Botswana or a person having permanent residence in Botswana) to bind themselves in the same amount.
Moesi said this was to ensure that the accused shall attend court, failure to which they shall pay the State for not attending court on any scheduled date.
Following the accused’s successful bail application, Nicolas Msukwo, Ranzi Moyo and Bafalasi Ontametse volunteered to become sureties for Mayodi, Nkatha and Kamanga respectively.
However, events took a nasty turn after the accused failed to appear in court last month as scheduled which forced the prosecutor, Alfred Tlhowe to apply for the sureties to appear in court to show cause why they should not each pay P15,000 they bound themselves with after the accused were granted bail but failed to show up in court.
After being asked by Justice Moesi why he should not be held liable for Mayodi’s non-appearance in court, the Malawian surety Msukwo, a pharmacy technician with government, failed to provide any convincing reason to the court.
He said that after he heard that Mayodi failed to appear in court, he went to where Mayodi was staying but he did not find him.
“I contacted him on his mobile phone but his number was not getting through. I plead with the court to give me time to locate him. If I don’t find him, I pray with the court to give me time to pay the P15,000,” Msukwo added.
Another surety, Moyo who said he was unemployed, pleaded with the court to also give him a period in which he is supposed to have paid the P15,000 for failing to make sure that Nkatha appeared in court as and when required to do so.
“I am a breadwinner for my mother and family. I pray with the court to grant me flexible terms of how I can pay the P15,000,” Moyo pleaded.
The last surety, Ontametse for Kamanga also sang from the same hymn book that he was not against paying
He said: “I thought that the accused would stay in Botswana since the police had confiscated their passports, hence I ended up being one of the sureties. I am currently in the process of investigating where the accused have relocated because I did not find Kamanga at his former place of residence. I pray with the court to give me time to locate the accused, failure to which I will pay the P15,000”.
Ontametse, just like Msukwo and Moyo, told Moesi that Kamanga’s mobile phone number was not getting through despite numerous calls he made to contact him.
Just like he remonstrated with the other sureties, Moesi told Ontametse that he was supposed to have read and understood the consequences of the recognisance he signed before he volunteered to become Kamanga’s surety.
Moesi was also not pleased with the attitude of the police in handling the matter after the accused did not report at Tatitown police station on Sundays and Wednesdays between 7:30am and 5:00pm before the finalisation of the main case.
Moesi said the police were supposed to investigate why the accused were not reporting themselves at Tatitown police as one of their bail conditions stipulated.
He added that it is well known that the public is angry about the manner in which some accused persons are granted bail despite facing serious offences.
Moesi said the attitude of the police in the matter would reinforce the assumption that the courts are quick to grant bail to accused persons without taking the interests of society into consideration.
Tlhowe had earlier told the court that he went to Tatitown police, but the police told him that they don’t keep records of people who are on bail who are supposed to report themselves at the police station.
Moesi then made an order that each of the sureties should pay P15, 000 to the State forthwith for failing to advance sufficient and valid reasons why the accused persons failed to appear in court.
In addition, Moesi said the directive that he issued should be copied to the Registrar of the court separately to investigate why the relevant state agency (in this case the police) failed to investigate where the accused might be after they did not report themselves at Tatitown police as stipulated in their bail conditions and ended up not appearing in court despite the fact that they were facing serious offences.