FRANCISTOWN: Four Zimbabwean brothers and a compatriot charged with unlawful prospecting of minerals without a permit or licence authorising them to do so have been cleared of wrongdoing because of lack of evidence.
The brothers, Msix Moyo, 42, Ishmael Moyo, 17, Phumlani Moyo, 27, and Peter Moyo, 23, and their Zimbabwean accomplice, Artwell Ndlovu, 23, were alleged to have committed the offence on November 15, 2021, between Matsiloje and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) training centre.
However, the accused were not totally off the hook after they admitted to a charge of entering Botswana using an ungazetted point of entry on November 15 at or near Ramokgwebana village.
When the facts were read to the accused on Tuesday, they admitted that members of the BDF, who later enlisted the assistance of the police, found them digging a pit and when they were asked to produce travel documents authorising them to enter Botswana, they failed to do so.
After the accused admitted to the facts, Chief Magistrate Mareledi Dipate said that he was satisfied that the elements of the offence as required by law were proved.
Dipate added that the admissions of the accused fortified the fact that the state had proved its case against them beyond reasonable doubt. During mitigation, Msix and Ishmael said they had nothing to assert.
Phumlani prayed with the court to temper justice with mercy by not giving him a custodial sentence. “I come from a country where we are suffering and there is no money,” Phumlani pleaded.
Phumlani’s brother, Peter prayed with the court that if it handed him a custodial sentence, it should backdate the term to the time they were incarcerated.
Peter added: “I also plead with the court to give me a non-custodial sentence.” Just as Phumlani, Ndlovu also pleaded with the court to backdate his sentence to the time when he was arrested and incarcerated.
While cleared of unlawful prospecting of minerals without a permit, Ishmael had during arraignment implicated his brothers in the commission of the offence when the Investigating Officer was still giving testimony.
Ishmael had said then: “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.” However, due to a lack of evidence, the charge was eventually dropped.