By: Kelvin Chiringa
A Botswana court in Kasane is expected to hand down the much-anticipated judgment into the killings of the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin along the Chobe River in 2020.
The brothers are Tommy, Wamunyima, Martin and Cousin Sinvula Munyeme.
The judgment comes after successive witness testimonies were heard at the inquest, which attracted a strong Namibian delegation to Botswana constituting the Zambezi regional governor, Lawrence Sampofu, the family of the slain brothers and the Namibian Lives Matter.
It also comes as some members of the Namibian national council also called for the severing of ties between the two countries on account of the cold blood killings, which left Namibians reeling in shock.
The Nchindo family wants to be compensated for the damages suffered from the deaths of their family, which also resulted in the tragic death of their mother, Alphonsina Nkungano Mubu (69), soon after the shootings.
The NLM wants justice and a safe border for Namibians who fish in the rivers and whose animal grazing is in the vicinity.
The movement has been exerting pressure on both governments to seek justice. Its leader, Sinvula Mudabeti, has said that the court outcome at Kasane will decide the future of the Botswana/Namibia relations.
Mudabeti’s movement had demonstrated against Botswana president Eric Masisi when he jetted in to soothe tempers. He said they are ready to mobilize if the judgment does not condemn the BDF.
“If the magistrate gives a verdict that exonerates the Botswana Defence Force, we would have exhausted local remedies in Botswana to seek justice. Then we will activate international remedies to ask the court in Botswana to give us a record of the entire proceedings, what transpired from day one, and the verdict itself with supporting documents such as records of all witness statements given in the inquest, the autopsy report and all exhibits.
“We will use that as our basis to approach SADC, the African Union, all human rights organizations that we know and then ultimately we will send the matter to the United Nations where we will report Botswana for gross violation of not just human rights, but a justice system in their country that has failed to uphold the independence of their judiciary,” he said.
Until this point, Botswana has continued to maintain that the slain brothers were poachers, a claim that has been received with outrage from the Namibian side.
Elephant tusks were also exhibited at the inquest, which saw the NLM hitting back and watering it down as planted evidence.
What has made the case a complex one for the Batswana authorities is that there has been a failure during the inquest to produce the smoking gun that should pin the brothers against the accusation of being poachers?
The NLM has also decried the many bullets that were pumped into the brothers’ bodies on a fateful day that they were fired at.
One of the family members who had to make the trip to Botswana and sit in the court to hear his brothers being referred to as poachers were Charles Nchindo.
“I felt very bad and so disappointed because they say my brothers came here (Botswana) for poaching. This is not true. It’s blue lies. Not even a bullet or a carcass of an elephant was found.
“They brought the canoe paddles, two spears, four black containers used to carry fish and three old elephant tusks. You tell me, do you mean they (the slain men) killed an elephant with three tusks?” he is quoted as saying.
The outrage around this incident has spilt into the National council, where Swapo legislator Christoph Likuwa declared, “If Botswana wants war with us, and they must talk!”
In the meantime, Mudabeti said if the BDF is to be held liable, they will study the judgment and prepare for the next stage.
“We are not going to accept homicide. We are only interested in one thing, and that is murder with the direct intent to kill. Anything less than that will make us activate international remedies,” he said.