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Slain fishermen found with elephant tusks, witness testifies

Slain fishermen found with elephant tusks, witness testifies

Zorena Jantze

THREE elephant tusks were reportedly found in a canoe of the fishermen shot dead on the Chobe River by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) in a case they insist was suspected poaching.

This testimony was given on Monday by a Botswana Police Service (BPS) crime scene investigator in the continuing inquest on the shooting of three Namibians and one Zambian before regional magistrate Taboka Mopipi in Kasane.

Namibian brothers Wamunyima (36), Martin (40) and Tommy Nchindo (48), as well as their Zambian cousin, Sinvula Munyeme (44), were killed while fishing on the river at night.

Crime scene investigator Michael Abel Josiah testified that on 5 November 2020 he received information from Constable Kenosi who received a call from an informer who now cannot be traced.

Picture for illustrative purposes only.

Josiah said he then informed his superiors about four men, believed to be poachers, and allegedly armed, moving from Namibia to Botswana on the Chobe River.

After 30 minutes, he received a call that the intelligence information was communicated to the BDF on patrol.

Josiah said when he arrived at the scene on 6 November 2020, Lieutenant Mphela informed him that the BDF spotted two canoes whose occupants refused to stop when ordered to do so during a routine patrol.

In an earlier testimony, Mphela said he received a call about alleged poachers and took a team of seven BDF soldiers to look for the men.

In contradiction, Josiah said Mphela informed him the BDF soldiers actually encountered the fishermen during a routine patrol and not during an ambush or while looking for alleged poachers.

Josiah further testified that around 07:00 on 6 November 2020, he found BDF soldiers under the command of Mphela at the scene, which Mphela then introduced to him.

Josiah said he was shown one canoe with the bodies of two males in it and one with the body of one male. The fourth body was lying next to the river bank.

Josiah said in canoe one was a white maize bag containing three elephant tusks, and a black plastic, square box with “Clover” written on.

In canoe two was a 30 litre black container with some clothing, and long pliers, as well as a white maize meal bag written Super A (a Botswana maize bag brand) containing three elephant tusks.

On the body of Munyeme, the investigator also found a mobile phone, two Zambian Kwacha bank notes, and a total N$260.

In the pockets of Ernst was also a mobile phone.

He also found two long wooden oars in the water pointing upward, indicting the water was very shallow, and two homemade spears.

He compiled four albums with photographs of the four slain men which were admitted to the court as exhibits.

During cross-examination Josiah said he did not take finger prints from the elephant tusks because they were floating in the water-filled canoe.

This was the first mention of a water-filling canoe making fingerprinting impossible.

The sweater found on one of the slain men was sent to South Africa for forensic analysis as it reportedly contained animal blood.

The men’s bodies were taken to the Kasane Hospital.

Inspector Josiah said the post mortem was conducted in Francistown on 13 November and he was responsible for taking the pictures.

Also in the witness stand was Kaela Nkale, a Botswana biologist who after analysing tusks concluded that the three objects had the characteristics of elephant ivory.

Nkale testified that he took the ivory to the Botswana Bureau of Standards who estimated the value as 20 757. 81 pula (around N$28,000).

Last week, the leader of the Namibian Lives Matter movement said some Namibian witnesses were told that they were no longer needed to testify and should go back to Namibia.

Sinvula Mudabeti said this was a cost-cutting measure by Botswana’s prosecution.

Further meetings will be held to address the issue.

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