TWENTY-FIVE Malawian illegal immigrants are languishing at Chipinge Prison awaiting a Chewa interpreter after they were arrested on Thursday night when a bus which was smuggling them to South Africa was intercepted at a police roadblock in Middle Sabi.

The immigrants, all of Muzimba village, were not asked to plead to contravening section 29(1)(a) of the Immigration Act (Alien shall not enter, be in or remain in Zimbabwe without presenting himself to immigration, or not being in possession of a permit) when they appeared before Chipinge provincial magistrate Poterai Gwezhira.

There was a separation of trial between them and a colleague, Jim Rukere, who understood English, who was convicted on his own plea of guilty.

He was sentenced to six months in prison wholly suspended for five years on condition he does not, within that period, enter Zimbabwe illegally.

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In mitigation, Rukere told the court that he committed the offence because he wanted to skip the border into South Africa for greener pastures.

“I appeal for leniency when arriving on your sentence, Your worship. I committed the offence in desperation as I wanted to go to South Africa to look for better opportunities as I was suffering back home in the village,” he said.

However, his co-accused were remanded in custody to November 14 waiting for the State to provide a Chewa interpreter as they all indicated that they did not understand English.

Prosecutor Sesedzai Mayera told the court that on Thursday around 11pm, the illegal immigrants were aboard a Malawi-registered bus travelling along the Tanganda-Ngundu Highway.

They were stopped by police officers at the 255km peg at a roadblock in Middle Sabi.

Police discovered that the 25 had not gone through immigration processes on entering the country and did not have valid permits to be in Zimbabwe, leading to their arrest.