FRANCISTOWN: A 54-year-old man Uyapo Jerry has pleaded guilty to illegal possession of elephant tusks when he appeared before Principal Magistrate Dumisani Basupi on Wednesday.
The accused, who hails from Tutume, entered his own plea, but his co-accused Mbatshi Walila, 30, also from Tutume, pleaded not guilty.
The state alleges that on November 10, 2014, the accused were found with two elephant tusks valued at P62,000 at Dumela Industrial Site in Francistown, but failed to produce a permit for their possession. The court papers also state that Jerry was found with the tusks after police stopped and searched the BMW car he was driving.
“The tusks were examined by a biologist from the Wildlife and National Parks Department on November 19, 2014 and were found to belong to an African elephant species,” according to the facts. Jerry said he initially wanted to take the tusks to a relevant government department, but abandoned the plan after he was tempted to sell them for his own benefit. He admitted that his actions have no legal basis when asked by Basupi why he possessed the tusks without a licence to do so.
“The accused’s answers are consistent with his own plea of guilty, which I find to be unequivocal and I find him guilty as charged,” said Basupi.
Prosecutor Kagiso Lekang from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said that Jerry had three previous offences ranging from common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm that he committed in the 1990’s. On the other hand Lekang said he did not oppose Walila to be granted bail on condition that he attends court as and when required.
However, Basupi said Walila has committed a serious offence that attracts five years imprisonment or P50,000 fine or both if found guilty. He granted Walila bail on condition that he pays P10,000, produce two sureties who shall each pay P5,000, report to Tutume police station once every week between working hours, not interfere with witnesses and attend court when required.
Jerry is due in court on July 23 for mitigation and sentence.