FIVE Zimbabwean border jumpers accused of illegally panning for gold in Francistown, Botswana, have been acquitted of the charge due to lack of evidence.
However, the court slapped them with a one-year jail term each for irregular entry.
Peter Moyo (23), Msix Moyo (42), Phumulani Moyo (27), Attiwel Ndlovu (23) and a 17-year-old juvenile denied the illegal mining charge when they appeared before Francistown chief magistrate Mareledi Dipate.
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They, however, admitted to the charge of irregular entry into the neighbouring country.
In mitigation on the irregular entry charge, Phumulani and Peter pleaded with the court not to hand them a custodial sentence.
Notwithstanding, the magistrate sentenced them to one year in prison backdated to the time they were incarcerated following their arrest on November 15,
The court heard that the Botswana Defence Forces arrested the five on November 15 last year while they were allegedly panning for gold at Old Matsiloje Mine.
They were handed over to the police and were found with two bags full of stones suspected to be gold ore.
After probing, the police discovered that they were illegal immigrants who entered the country through the Ramokgwebana Border Post without documents.