The ongoing trial into the killing of three Nchindo brothers and their Zambian cousin by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) seems to be turning into a contest of patriotism as Batswana witnesses testify in favour of their compatriots, according to media reports.
The three brothers, Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44), were shot by the BDF on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.
An inquest into the killing of the four started last week in Botswana’s Kasane Magistrate’s Court, where Namibian witnesses were also called to testify. However, assistant commissioner Kaizei Kutlwano told the inquiry that there’s no criminal case against the BDF members because they were on official duty.
According to the Botswana Gazzette, as may be expected in an inquest, there are contradictions, and the prosecution is finding itself in a dilemma but has since decided to call more witnesses.
Zambezi crime investigations coordinator Evans Simasiku told the Kasane court on Wednesday that he believes the Nchindo brothers derived their livelihood from fishing.
He said this as he testified as a witness in the ongoing inquiry into the circumstances that led to the shooting and killing of the four.
This week, Botswana assistant director in the directorate of public prosecutions Thato Dibeela informed the inquiry that they intend to call a further 13 witnesses, increasing the total to 35.
The prosecution was initially going to call 22 witnesses when the matter was registered with the Kasane Magistrate’s Court on 22 September.
Last week, a Namibian police officer, detective Patrick Mafwila told the court that he was excluded from crucial parts of his work by Botswana authorities during post-mortem examinations on the bodies of the dead men in Francistown.
He said despite carrying his camera to Francistown for that purpose, he was not allowed to take photographs, while his Botswana counterpart, inspector Michael Jesaya was given access to take photographs of the deceased.
Another witness, Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) regional officer Matshelo Makhondo stated that the Namibians were in Botswana illegally and were conducting illegal business. Makhondo said that country’s Fish Protection Regulations of 2008 outlawed fishing activities in national parks and game reserves, as well as people entering parks and game reserves at the time that the deceased were inside the Chobe National Park. Another witness, Dr Itomo Amis from Namibia, told the court that he was instructed by Botswana’s ministry of health executive director to accompany the Namibian Police team and the Nchindo family representatives to Francistown for the post-mortem of the Nchindo brothers and their Zambian cousin.
He said on 13 November 2020, he arrived in Francistown, and was strictly told to be an observer only. He added that he was only allowed to take notes, and not pictures.
Amis said before the post-mortem, he observed that there was no advanced decomposition of the bodies (the Botswana doctor had noted that the bodies were decomposing, without stating the stage of decomposition). “I also saw that there was no green colour on the bodies to indicate a bad state of the bodies,” he testified, adding that this is despite the Botswana doctor having explained that when a body dies, it starts to decompose. Therefore, to argue that the four bodies were decomposed without stating the stage of decomposition would not be a true statement.
Amis also disputed the cause of death as gunshot wounds on all the slain fishermen because he felt that this was rather the underlying cause of death that led to the actual deaths. According to him, the cause of death was for example heart failure as a result of gunshot wounds.
He clarified that there was no way a person could have a swollen face as a result of decomposition when such a person’s abdomen was not swollen because the area of the abdomen swells much faster than the face in the event of normal decomposition.
“So, the bodies that had swollen faces had their abdomens intact. Thus, the swelling was caused by inflammation more than decomposition,” Amis stressed.
It is believed that the verdict will be given on 28 January next year.