Botswana: Magistrate Grants Boat Operator Bail

Kasane — Kasane Magistrate Court has granted conditional bail to a tour guide, who was operating a boat that capsized on November 28 in the Chobe River claiming two lives in the process.

Magistrate Thato Ramaja ordered the accused, Kgomotso Seolwe, to pay P5 000, provide two sureties of the same amount, submit his travel documents to the police and report at the same police station every Friday.

Ms Ramaja further said the accused should undergo counselling at a social welfare department three times a week, not commit any offence while on bail, not interfere with state witnesses, not operate any public boat until the social welfare department confirms that he is fit to do so and attend all court proceedings.

She said to ensure that Seolwe would not operate any boat, he should surrender his guide license to the police.

The magistrate said granting the bail did not mean the offence was not committed, but that the prosecution failed to provide the court with sufficient evidence that the accused could interfere with investigations.

She said the prosecution should have allowed for finalisation of the investigations before bringing the matter before the court. She noted that the court acted on facts and not on emotions.

When opposing the bail application, the investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Monica Motlhabane said investigations were still at an initial stage and that bodies of the deceased were still at the Kasane Primary Hospital mortuary awaiting postmorterm dates from Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital in Francistown.

Sgt Motlhabane told the court that she still needed time to record statements from people who were at the scene and there was possibility that should the accused be granted bail, he would interfere with the witnesses.

She explained that some of the witnesses who were on the boat were colleagues and friends of the accused, therefore he could connive with them to give false statements. The investigating officer further said she was still consulting with Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) on whether the charge of reckless and negligence should apply or be changed to manslaughter.

The prosecutor, Superintendent Paul Chaluza, had earlier pleaded with the court to take into consideration the prejudice that the state was likely to suffer should the accused be granted bail.

He said the court needed to look at the association of the accused and the witnesses as well as the issue of the society's interest in the matter as opposed to the accused's right to liberty.

He said the incident affected the majority of the population in the country and it was too early to allow the accused to mingle with the same society as if nothing happened.

For his part, the 24-year-old Seolwe pleaded for bail saying he needed time to calm following the incident, adding that no counselling was arranged for him. He further said he had been cooperating with the police and was not a flight risk.

Seolwe would appear for mention on January 12 next year.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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