Gaborone High Court judge Justice Zein Kebonang has freed a Zimbabwean national who was tried and convicted with a wrong section of the law.
While most Zimbabweans who are in the country illegally are deported by police and immigration officials without even going to courts, for Benson Hlabangana it was a different story as Magistrate Gaseitsiwe Tonoki of Broadhurst Magistrate Court sentenced him to four years in jail and fined him P4, 000. Hlabangana had from June 2014 to December 2017 remained in Botswana for more than 90 days. He was also charged with entering the country through an ungazzeted point, a charge that was later withdrawn.
Pending his appeal, Hlabangana’s attorney Howard Tainton filed an urgent application with the High Court to have him freed as he was tried and convicted with a wrong section of the law. Instead of focussing on the application before him, Kebonang was quick to label the sentence a miscarriage of justice.
He questioned Tamela Mbulawa of Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as to why Hlabangana was given such a heavy sentence. He
“Indeed my Lord he was charged with the wrong section which states that if he had not followed conditions set by the minister he could get the sentence he got. But there were never any conditions set for him by the minister. Also he is a first offender and admitted guilt,” Mbulawa said.
Kebonang then moved to vacate the charge and fined Hlabangana P1, 000 plus the time he had already served in prison, being almost eight months. Even though he faced immediate deportation after release, Hlabangana could not hide excitement and thanked Kebonang for freeing him.