Magistrate ruling defuses diplomatic row for now

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The diplomatic row between Botswana and Zimbabwe has been diffused after the Hwange Magistrate’s court released three Wildlife officials who had been arrested for entering the country illegally.

Botswana nationals Kiabetswe Mhiko, 35, Gaetsho Simane, 32, and Petego Gaosengwe appeared before magistrate Peter Madiba on Tuesday.

The trio were facing charges of smuggling and possession of firearms and ammunition without a license and entry by evasion.

The Botswana nationals were represented by Tawanda Chiurai of Coghlan and Welsh legal practitioners who told NewsDay that they were released after they paid fines.

“They were released on Tuesday after they were convicted under the immigrations act which saw them being fined $100 each and were acquitted on violating the Customs Act and also under the firearms Act,” said Chiurai.

Chiurai also said that they were not given the property that was confiscated.

“As they were leaving, they tried to collect their car and firearms, but officials refused with the property as they said they had been given a directive by the director of public prosecution not to release them as they want to appeal.”

Chief Law officer Chris Mutangadura said the State wanted to appeal against the acquittal judgment.

“Once a gun enters into a country and if entering a country one should declare the car at port of entry under the Customs Act so we are holding on to their property until we make an appeal and if we succeed then it is forfeited to the State,” said Mutangadura

The move diffused what was becoming a major diplomatic row. At the weekend Botswana threatened to recall its diplomats from Zimbabwe. “The Government of the Republic of Botswana expects the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe to reciprocate by recalling its defence and central intelligence organisation attaches from Botswana by the end of the month,” said Botswana’s Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani (pictured)last Friday.