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Bus driver held for smuggling migrants

Leungo Mokgwathi
NOT SO WELCOME: Welcome Ndumiso Sibanda

A 36-year-old Zimbabwean man, Welcome Ndumiso Sibanda, finds himself in custody facing charges related to the smuggling of persons into the country.

Sibanda was arraigned before the Extension II Magistrate Court after being apprehended while transporting 22 Zimbabwean passengers, all lacking proper travel documents.

The court learned that on January 7, 2023, the accused was halted at a police roadblock at Mokolodi turn-off.

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Upon inspecting his vehicle, 22 Zimbabweans, comprising 17 adults and 5 minors, were discovered in his minibus without the required travel papers.

According to Detective Inspector Dipheko from Naledi Police Station, who served as the Investigating Officer, all passengers underwent comprehensive interviews regarding their journey.

They claimed to be en route from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

Three women asserted guardianship over the five children but lacked substantiating evidence.

Authorities sought Interpol’s assistance to confirm their status, suspecting potential smuggling.

It was disclosed by the passengers that the accused had transported them from Chichi village in Zimbabwe, guiding them through the Ramokgwebana border.

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Six passengers possessing passports alighted from the bus for passport stamping, leaving the rest on board.

Sibanda disputed this account, affirming he was present during the interviews, where passengers informed arresting officers that he had picked them up from the Ramokgwebana border, contrary to the Chichi village claim.

He questioned the suspicion of smuggling, noting that as a public transportation driver, verifying passengers’ passports falls under the Border Marshalls’ jurisdiction. “That is the job of the Border Marshalls,” he contended.

Despite possessing a valid South African Passport, the State recommended further custody for Sibanda, citing potential flight risk due to his lack of fixed residence in Botswana.

However, the court acknowledged his proper travel documents.

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The accused is slated to reappear in the Extension II Magistrate Court in two weeks, anticipating Interpol’s response.

The case may later be transferred to Francistown as the point of entry for the travelers was the Ramokgwebana border.

Sibanda and the passengers will remain in custody pending investigations.

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