The court of Appeal in Gaborone on Thursday dismissed a case in which a local attorney, Lydon Mothusi was challenging the relevance of the acquittal of his co-accused, Herbet Sikhakhane on charges of conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences.
The court ruled that Mothusi had failed to establish that the acquittal on technical grounds of Sikhakhane destroyed any legal possibility of the continued existence of a conspiracy.
Sikhakhane and Mothusi were charged with obtaining money fraudulently from government between October 2003 and January 2004. The money amounted to several hundred thousands of Pula and Mothusi who has already served a prison term for the crime, wanted to clear his name.
He appeared before court in person and advanced legal argument in an attempt to persuade the Judges, J.G Foxcroft, Ian Kirby and Legwaila that the acquittal of fellow lawyer, Sikhakhane, resulted in the situation that any possible conspiracy conviction immediately fell away.
Both Sikhakhane and Mothusi had been tried in the Magistrate court and convicted but neither had made a confession implicating the other. For reasons which were never made clear before court, they lodged separate appeals and hearings. Justice Leburu in August 2010 set aside the sentence and conviction of Mothusi and Sikhakhane’s conviction and sentence were set aside three Months later by a different Judge. Sikhakhane’s ruling was derived from the strength of Leburu’s Judgment.
The Directorate of Public Prosecution appealed against the judgment and subsequently Justice Tafa found that there was sufficient evidence before him to justify the conviction of Mothusi on obtaining money by false pretences charge and he got an eighteen months prison sentence, twelve of which were suspended together with a fine of P1000.
However, the State could not shed light on the extraordinary fact that while Mothusi’s convictions were reconsidered on appeal , his co-conspirator, Sikhakhane has not again been brought before any court subsequent to the setting aside of his conviction.
“It is so that the decision of this court in 2011 followed as appealed by the DPP against one co-conspirator and not the other,” Justice Foxcroft pointed out.
However the state explained that the Prosecutor at the time, a certain Mr Ditodi who has since passed away could have shed light on such an extraordinary fact.
“Mr Mothusi spent some time submitting before us that the available evidence on record did not support the existence of a conspiracy at all. This argument went beyond the scope of the limited legal issue upon which he was granted leave to appeal to this court. In any event, the argument was entirely fallacious as is well demonstrated in the judgment of Justice Tafa,” Foxcroft added.
Mothusi’s attempt to raise the possibility of the missing evidence to support his case was also ruled as having gone beyond the scope of the appeal.
“It is a matter for regret that the many attempts to reconstruct the record and recover missing exhibits in this matter bore so little fruit, and that despite the direction of this court that the reconstruction exercise was to be completed by October 2011 whereupon the appeal would be argued on the material then available, this was only heard more than two years thereafter, with leave to appeal being granted by Justice Tafa on December 2014,” the Judge noted before levelling the blame to the Magistrate who first heard the case and failed to protect the exhibits.
“Mr N. Bopa, former Chief Magistrate who first heard this case must share a good deal of the blame for not exercising proper control over his own handwritten notes and the box of exhibits in his custody at the time when they went missing. His written report on the reconstruction was inadequate and in conflict with the schedule of defects in the record later agreed between the State and Defence,” the judge expressed his disappointment.
He was irked more so by the fact that the case had dragged on before the courts for the past eleven years and Mothusi had to wait for that long to get the final result of his trial.
Mothusi told court that he had already completed his prison sentence but wanted the court to clear him of the conspiracy. During the trial period, Mothusi who is a criminal lawyer could not practice and the Judge had made sure that the copy of the current ruling is passed on to the Law Society of Botswana which is very likely to continue prohibiting him from practice due to the existing conviction.
“I direct that since the case involved two legal practitioners, a copy of this judgement and of the appeal record is to be served upon the Botswana Law Society for information and action should it deem this to be necessary,” Foxcroft concluded the ruling in unison with other Judges.
He had in fact earlier mentioned that a scheme by the two co-conspirators to make money unlawfully was clearly demonstrated on the evidence. None the less, Sikhakhane was long cleared of the crime.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.