Francistown High Court Judge, Bashi Moesi has ruled that three alleged human traffickers from Malawi have a case to answer in all the five counts of promoting human trafficking levelled against each one of them.
The state alleges that the trio: John Mayodi, Enock Nkatha and Gaston Kamanga acted jointly to defeat the ends of justice by smuggling three women, Sakina Kaboda, Mary Mhone, and Melise Biston, Thomas Manda, 22, and a baby boy Craig Kaboda to South Africa from Malawi.
The accused persons have since pleaded not guilty to the charge and applied for a no case to answer followed by an application for bail through their attorney Morris Ndawana.
Their bail application was suscefull but it came with harsh and strict conditions as Moesi said in one of the conditions that the state can use monitoring devices on the accused if they feel the need to do so.
In his ruling on Friday, Moesi said that having studied facts, submissions and evidence from both sides he has come to conclusion that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the accused.
“The application of no case to answer is dismissed,” Moesi said.
Judge Moesi pointed out that in the testimony of the investigating officer (I.O), Akanyang David, there are suspicions that the victims were going to be dumped in South Africa to work as slaves and sex workers.
He said that the IO stated in his evidence that the victims did not have money in their possession and that they did not have South African residence permit nor work permits.
He also said one of the victims was given a passport that does not belong to him while one had a valid passport while the other victims had travellers’ documents which were only used in their native country.
“Considering the above factors, the victims were going to work under harsh conditions, poor medical attention and were prone to abuse,” Moesi said adding that David was of the view that they were going to be dumped in South Africa considering the language barrier.
The judge further noted that the I.O was of the view that one of the victims, Sakinqa was being trafficked as she did not know her address in South Africa and also had a baby without a valid passport with her.
He also added that the victims had never been to South Africa before nor did they know where they were going to stay.
He then ruled that the accused will have to come to court on April 23rd to put their defence to the test. Their bail has been extended until then.
This case is evidence that Botswana continues to be a corridor for human trafficking, a criminal enterprise whose victims are mostly women and children.
This criminal industry is one of the fastest growing within the country as traffickers try every day to take their victims across the border to neighbouring countries and even internationally.
Some of the naive victims are lured under the false promises of a better life in South Africa only to end up in prostitution rings and forced labour.
What is evident is that Botswana continues to serve as a transit route to the Promised Land as law enforcement officers continue to grapple with cases of this nature.