FRANCISTOWN: A 54-year-old man of Tutume village was fined P25,000 for illegal possession of two elephant tusks weighing 39.2 kilogrammes valued at P62,000.
The fine is payable in seven days, failure of which he will spend five years in jail. “Furthermore, he is sentenced to five years in jail, wholly suspended for three years on condition that he does not commit a similar offence,” said principal magistrate, Dumisani Basupi.
The accused, Uyapo Jerry, was convicted after he entered into his own plea of guilty. He was initially charged along with Mbatshi Walila, 30, also from Tutume, who was discharged because of lack of evidence. Jerry committed the offence at Dumela Industrial Site in Francistown on November 10, 2014.
Passing sentence on Friday, Basupi said ivory plays a very important part in the economy of the country.
“This simply emanates from the role wildlife plays in the economy, which need not be overemphasised. Wildlife should be protected from unscrupulous individuals who kill it for their own selfish interests,” said a concerned Basupi.
He added: “When a person illegally possesses or obtains elephant tusk(s), two questions arise: ‘How many elephants have they killed to get the tusks?’ and ‘Where did they get the knowledge that elephant tusks are sold?’”
Basupi said the two questions can safely be answered by the greed of the accused.
“Like I said earlier, wildlife plays an integral part in the economy of this republic.
Therefore, the court has a duty to accordingly punish those who obtain government trophies through dubious means to deter would be offenders from doing so. The accused is a first offender, a factor that works favourably for him and he has also pleaded guilty, which is a sign of remorse on his part,” said Basupi.
According to the facts in the matter, Jerry was found with the tusks after police stopped and searched the BMW the duo were travelling in.
Jerry admitted that the police searched the car they were driving, in the presence of two independent witnesses and found the tusks. “The tusks were examined by a biologist from the wildlife and national parks department on November 19, 2014 and were found to belong to an African elephant species,” according to the fact sheet.
Jerry said he initially wanted to take the tusks to relevant government departments, but abandoned the plan after he was tempted to sell them for his own benefit. He added that his actions have no legal basis when asked by Basupi why he possessed the tusks without a license.
“The accused’s answers are consistent with his own plea of guilty, which I find to be unequivocal and I find him guilty as charged,” said Basupi.