A 29-year-old Zimbabwean man has been arrested in Botswana after he was found travelling to South Africa with seven children in a suspected human trafficking case.
Eric Mpofu, who is unemployed, appeared before a Francistown Magistrate, Chandapiwa Molefi, on Monday on a charge of ill-treatment of children.
According to media reports, Mpofu was arrested by police on December 3 at Bluetown while travelling with seven children from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
Prosecutor Sesafeleng Dijeng applied for charges to be read to Mpofu and his plea was reserved.
Dijeng also made an application for Mpofu to be remanded in custody and called the Investigating Officer (IO) to advance reasons why Mpofu should be remanded in custody.
After the charges were read to the accused, Magistrate Molefi asked Dijeng to clarify the particulars of the offence since the case has elements of human trafficking.
In response, Dijeng said Mpofu was found transporting minors from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
“The minors had no parents accompanying them when they were found in the company of Mpofu, hence we are saying that they are vulnerable to ill-treatment.
“The investigators are still trying to unravel if the accused had permission from the legal guardians or parents of the children to take them to South Africa as he alleges,” said Dijeng.
The investigating officer, Assistant Superintendent Meshack Mosika, told the court that Mpofu was arrested last Friday and that investigations were at their initial stages, hence the proposal to continue detaining him.
Our investigations so far show that the accused was in transit from Zimbabwe to South Africa through Botswana.
“He has no permanent place of residence in Botswana, he does not have any gainful employment in Botswana and he is also facing a very serious offence.
We are yet to ascertain charges that could be later levelled against Mpofu since his current charge has an element of human trafficking,” said Mosika.
He added that Mpofu could flee the country once freed on bail.
Investigators also believe the process of investigations could be protracted since Zimbabwean and South African authorities may be involved.
“We have to establish the guardians of the children in Zimbabwe as well as their parents who are said to be in South Africa.
There is also the likelihood of having to carry out DNA tests to confirm if the people who will come forward to claim that they are parents of the children are indeed their parents.
We are afraid that if the accused is granted bail, he is unlikely to fulfil his bail conditions,” said Mosika.
The children are presently under police care.
Asked by Magistrate Molefi why the children were under police care and not social welfare officers since the matter was urgent and involved children, Dijeng made a miscellaneous application to be given time to urgently finalise the process of handing over the custody of the children from police to social welfare officers.
Molefi then remanded Mpofu in custody.