Two Zimbabwean police officers who were charged with possession of suspected stolen property were acquitted from the charge on Tuesday this week by the Francistown Magistrate, Lebogang Kebeetsweng.
The state had alleged that constables Tapiwa Mugabe (30) and Kenneth Chabaya (28) were found in possession of 20 batteries at Dumela Industrial Site in Francistown on June 3. The police alleged that the batteries belonged to a local telecommunications company, Mascom Wireless. At the time of their arrest, the accused persons failed to produce receipts for the batteries. When the duo appeared in court on Tuesday this week, fresh evidence emerged. The court learnt that indeed the two law enforcement officers had bought the batteries from some people in their native country, Zimbabwe.
The Botswana police in collaboration with Interpol managed to confirm that the duo indeed bought the batteries from some people in Zimbabwe but they did not declare them at Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) at Ramokgwebana border post as per laid down procedure. They were fined by BURS officers for failing to declare the goods.
The accused persons’ attorney, Morgan Moseki was not amused about the prolonged detention of his clients despite their innocence. “The charge against my clients is bogus. It was wrong for the police to have detained them for such a long time,” Moseki said.
He insisted that his clients are law abiding citizens in Zimbabwe and they were not supposed to have been detained more than 48 hours. He further argued that due to their prolonged detention, the duo’s jobs could be jeopardized as they might be fired upon returning back home. The veteran attorney threatened to sue the Attorney General for unlawful detention and malicious prosecution of his clients. He further argued that to be found in possession of something does not mean that it is stolen property. “I know that the state is withdrawing the charges against the accused but the accused were persecuted by those who were supposed to protect them,” he complained.
Earlier on, Assistant Superintendent Pearl Nkele who was prosecuting the matter told the court that the police went to Zimbabwe to search for people who the accused said they bought the batteries from. “The police met three people in Mphoeng in Zimbabwe who the accused bought the batteries from. The said people confirmed that indeed the batteries were not stolen but they sold the batteries to the accused,” she revealed.
In a brief ruling, Magistrate Kebeetsweng declared that the matter was withdrawn with prejudice to the state.