FRANCISTOWN: In what one may term as a family affair, it was not surprising on Tuesday for 17-year-old minor and his three brothers were arraigned in court to face a single count of unlawful prospecting of minerals without a permit or licence authorising them to do so.
The State alleges that the quartet, Msix Moyo (42), Ishmael Moyo (17), Phumlani Moyo (27) and Peter Moyo (23), and their Zimbabwean accomplice, Artwell Ndlovu (23), committed the offence on November 15, 2021 between Matsiloje and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) training centre. All the accused, who are unemployed, are also facing another charge of entering Botswana through an ungazetted point of entry on November 15, 2021 at or near Ramokgwebana village. When the accused appeared before Magistrate Thabang Chokwe, prosecutor Sesafeleng Dijeng made an application for the accused to be remanded in custody.
The Investigation Officer, Constable Isichwala Jotia, told the court that on the date the offences allegedly happened, he was from Matopi to Matsiloje Police Station. “Upon arrival at the office, I received a phone call from the detachment commander of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to the effect that they had arrested five suspected illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe whom they found in possession of some stones they suspected to be minerals. I then engaged my colleagues and went to the alleged scene of crime.
Upon arrival at the scene of crime, we found some BDF officers with the five accused persons,” said Jotia. Jotia added: “Three of the accused persons were in possession of some stones. Phumlani and Ndlovu were not inside the pit while the other accused persons where inside it. The accused are not good candidates for bail because they entered Botswana through an ungazetted point of entry.
They also don’t have permanent places of abode in Botswana. They told me that they came to Botswana to solely mine gold illegally and then return to Zimbabwe.” While Jotia was still motivating why the accused should not be granted bail, Ishmael interjected saying, “Yes our sole mission of coming to Botswana was to illegally mine gold and then return to Zimbabwe.
It was not our first time to do that”. Perhaps, Ishmael was motivated by immaturity to say a statement that may later incriminate him and the other accused persons, hence Magistrate Chokwe advised Ishmael that his turn to ask the IO questions would come. Chokwe also advised Ishmael not to speak out of turn because what he just said had the potential to later incriminate him (Ishmael) and other accused persons. Jotia then continued to give reasons why the accused should further be remanded in custody. “Investigations into the offences that the accused allegedly committed are still at their initial stages.
The stones that the accused were allegedly found in possession of are yet to be taken to the forensic laboratory for analysis. Should the court be minded to grant the accused persons bail, we fear that they may abscond from trial and return to their country of origin which will become cumbersome for the police to trace them and bring them back to stand trial,” Jotia pleaded.
When cross-examining Jotia, Msix said that since Jotia mentioned that there were two bags but later said that there were three bags, which of his versions did he want the court to believe. In response, Jotia said that when police arrived at the alleged scene of crime after they received a report from the BDF, they found three bags containing some stones. Jotia added that the owner of the third bag had already escaped before they (BDF) arrested him. “After the owner of the third bag escaped, the BDF officers told us that they followed his footsteps in an endeavour to arrest him and luckily, his footsteps led them to arrest the other accused persons at another disused mine shaft,” Jotia answered.
All the remaining accused persons said that they had no questions to ask Jotia. Chokwe then explained to the accused that although they may opt not to ask the IO questions, they should understand the implications of not asking the IO questions. Before the accused could answer Chokwe’s questions, Ishmael spoke out of turn again telling the court that it was true that they were found with two bags while coming out of the mine shaft. Just like in the first instance, Chokwe reprimanded Ishmael again.
Dijeng then told the court that since Ishmael is a minor, the state will later make an application for separation of his trial after investigations are completed. The accused were remanded in custody as per the application made by the State. They are due in court on December 13, 2021 for status update.