Francistown high court acquits Apostolic church members

Francistown High Court Judge, Justice Munalola Lisimba, has acquitted and discharged two members of New Babylon Apostolic Church for manslaughter and negligent handling of combustible matter.

The two, Amos Lekgowe and Makgoanyana Baping, were charged for the death of Segametse Marapne and Nchadinyana Monewe in 1995.

The facts of the case were that on October 24 and 26, 1995 at Palapye acting together and in concert unlawfully caused the death of Marapane and Monewe.

Court was told that during the church service held at Mmabohutsana's yard in Palapye, water was boiled and put in two buckets and a concoction of salt, methylated spirit and pepper was made and brought inside the house.

According to evidence, petrol was brought inside the house where the service was taking place with a candle burning from one corner.

The concoctions were mixed and during the mixing some of the contents splashed on the burning candle causing a tremendous explosion, which resulted in a fire that burned members of the congregation, Marapane and Monewe.

Justice Lisimba said it was evident that what caused fire was not the explosion per se but the spillage of the mixture from the buckets, which happened during the stampede following the explosion.

He said as a result of the spillage petrol got in touch with the burning candle and caused the fire, which burned the deceased persons.

He said there was no doubt in his mind that the issue as to who mixed the concoction was central in providing the charges facing the accused persons and the failure by the prosecution to resolve the conflict in the evidence of its witnesses was fatal to the case.

He said even if there was sufficient proof as to the person who mixed the concoction with petrol, the evidence did not show gross negligence.

Justice Lisimba said Lekgowe and Baping told the court that the burning candle was placed about five metres "this clearly shows that adequate precautions were taken to avoid a mishap".

Leading the prosecution was Kabelo Mpopang while Oganeditse Marata of Marata and Partners Attorneys appeared for the accused.