Chief Napo Majara of Sekamaneng on Monday avoided incarceration after paying a M10 000 fine for soliciting a bribe in exchange for services he was supposed to provide his subjects free of charge.
Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase had sentenced the chief to eight years in prison for the offence, but also offered him an option to pay the fine to avoid serving time.
However, after indicating his intention to pay the fine, Chief Majara took exception to a police officer’s insistence that she would accompany him to the bank to collect the money.
The chief started shouting at the officer as they emerged from the Accounts Office at the High Court, insisting he would go alone to the bank and withdraw the balance he needed to realise the required M10 000.
But despite the theatrics, which drew laughter from onlookers, the convicted chief was told in no uncertain terms by the stern policewoman that he had to follow her orders.
Meanwhile, imposing sentence on the chief, Justice Mahase said: “This sentence is passed after considering a number of factors that include personal circumstances adduced on behalf of the accused in mitigation.
“The court has also considered aggravating circumstances submitted by the crown against the accused. And the appropriate sentence is a payment of M10 000, failing which the accused must go to prison for eight years.”
However, after the judge had passed the sentence and gone to her chambers, Chief Majara could be heard saying loudly as he walked out of the court: “This is nothing. M10 000 is just a coin to me.”
Justice Mahase on 31 March 2015 found the chief guilty of receiving a M500 bribe from Bokoro Tau in 2004 for effecting change of land-ownership. Mr Tau had wanted the piece of land to officially belong to his brother, Dingaan, but the chief demanded cash to facilitate the change of ownership. Mr Tau had informed the police about the demand, leading to a trap and the chief’s arrest as he received the marked notes.
But the judge had deferred sentencing to 17 April, and later 27 April, hence Monday’s punishment.
Justice Mahase said in convicting the chief: “The accused has no defence at all except his bare denial. He never challenged evidence that he met the Tau brothers before 2004, and demanded bribes before he could serve them.
“As I have already said, the accused was asked by the Tau brothers to stop demanding payment from them as that service was supposed to be free.
“But the accused told them that others, including high-ranking people in society, were paying for such services as nothing is free in life.”
Justice Mahase also observed Chief Majara was once suspended from his duties due to some malpractices.
“The accused is the gazette chief of Sekamaneng. He assumed his duties as such in September 1983, and was demoted during the military regime. He was reinstated on an unspecified date.
“The accused, in his capacity as the gazette chief of Sekamaneng, is a public officer who draws his salary from the Treasury Department.
“As a matter of principle, it is wrong for a public official to demand bribes.
“It is against the reasons I stated above that the accused is found guilty as charged.”