Two former Mababe Trust employees alongside another resident have been sentenced to two years imprisonment for illegal possession of two elephant tusks by the Maun Magistrate’s Court.
The convicts, Kago Obiditswe, Godfrey Pekenene and Alec Charles were arrested by the police at Mawana Veterinary Gate on the 14th August 2020 in possession of tusks weighing 45.4kg. The trio got arrested following a police tip-off and at the time Obiditswe and Pekenene were employed by Mababe Trust as an escort guide and reservations officer respectively.
Information presented before court was that the trio had on that fateful day hired a Toyota Land Cruiser at a price of P1300 to transport the tusks from Mababe to Maun. They were however intercepted at the gate at around 7 pm after conducting veterinary formalities and were about to board the car headed for Maun.
When delivering the sentence on Tuesday, Magistrate Keneilwe Kgoadi said she took into account the accused person’s plea for a lesser sentence.
The magistrate considered Charles’s plea that he has a small stock business which takes care of his aged mother as well as Obiditswe’s plea that he is the sole provider for his mother and orphaned nephew. She further took into account Pekenene’s plea that he is the sole provider for his old aged mother whom he claimed he has left with the neighbours.
During trial, the first accused person (Charles) who opted to give unsworn testimony claimed that they were taking the tusks to relevant authorities, whereas the second and third accused persons opted to remain silent.
But in her judgement, Kgoadi said the accused persons had the opportunity to first report the tusks to the trust office where the first and second accused persons where employed, and also at the veterinary gate veterinary staff, a procedure which they failed to execute.
“None of the three had permission and authorisation to handle or transport the tusks as such their possession of them was unlawful and I therefore find the accused persons guilty of illegal possession of elephant tusks,” Kgoadi previously ruled.
The Investigating Officer (IO) Assistant Superintendent Keotshwaretse Molathegi previously told court that the tusks were discovered under the car seats covered with suit and travel bags, an act which she argued indicated that the accused persons had other plans about the tusks apart from taking them to relevant authorities.
“If they were to take the tusks to the department of wildlife, they should have upon their arrival at the gate informed the veterinary officer who was on duty and they should have also kept them in a place where one can see them, instead of hiding them,” Molatlhegi previously argued.