ALLIANCE of Democrats (AD) leader Monyane Moleleki is a free man after High Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi on Tuesday acquitted him and his co-accused of the corruption charges they faced.
Mr Moleleki was charged with contravening mining laws after he allegedly awarded prospecting mining licenses to a Mafeteng company Refela Holdings when he was Natural Resources minister in 2012.
Mr Moleleki was facing three counts of contravening the Mines and Minerals Act along with the four Refela executives, Mohapi Khofu, Tšepo Khofu, Kereke Moteletsane and Moeketsi Motšoane.
The Refela bosses had been accused of failing to comply with the Mines and Minerals Act between 1 and 29 May 2012, when acquiring licences to prospect for diamonds in Ha Ramatšeliso and Mosaqane in the Qacha’s Nek district.
Mr Moleleki was accused of abusing his office to facilitate the issuance of the said permits.
The permits that were alleged to have been endorsed by Mr Moleleki, were later cancelled by then Mining minister, Tlali Khasu, on 31 October 2012 on suspicion they had been issued under questionable circumstances.
Mr Moleleki and his co-accused were all acquitted after the prosecution failed to prosecute the case as it had not furnished the defence team with documents that the defence lawyers required to prepare their defence.
Their acquittal came after Mr Moleleki’s lawyer, Advocate Salemane Phafane King’s Counsel (KC) on Tuesday urged the court to ask Mr Moleleki and his co-accused to tender their pleas so that the case could proceed the same day.
Addressing the court Adv Phafane KC said: “The defence has, since 2013, asked the prosecution to furnish them with all documents the prosecution intends to use for the trial.
“The court on 25 November 2013 said it was concerned that the defence had not yet been given all documents it required and that the Crown was bound to do so.
“Even when we argued before court, the Crown admitted that it only gave some documents to us, not all documents.
“The prosecution’s argument was that we were not entitled to all documents but the court made a ruling that we should be furnished with all documents that we needed,” he said.
Adv Phafane KC told the court that the documents that were not furnished to them included the three books which the forensic expert, the prosecution said it would call as witness, said were used to identify the hand writings.
He also said the defence wanted to be given the investigation diary which shows all the steps taken by the investigating officer when probing the case.
“This diary is very important because it would indicate if the docket had been tempered with or not,” he said.
Advocate Moletsane Lenono, who prosecuted the case, said: “This case is an old matter which should have been disposed of a long time ago.”
He said he had been given the indictment and requested other documents from the investigating officer who told him that he had difficulties in getting the docket.
“I wanted the docket so that I could interview the witnesses.
“I have never seen even the documents that my learned friend is referring to,” Adv Lenono said.
It was at that juncture that Justice Monaphathi asked Adv Lenono what he should do to protect the accused persons who had remained charged since 2013, yet the prosecution had never complied with the court’s order to give the defence all documents needed.
“What protection must I give to these accused,” Justice Monaphathi asked and Adv Lenono replied by asking the judge to give him until Friday to comply with the order.
But Adv Phafane KC urged the court to proceed with the case, arguing the government was using the case as part of its political campaign against Mr Moleleki.
“This is one of the cases the government uses to tarnish the good image of accused number one.
“He is now the leader of a political party which is opposed to the government and the government has used it to politic against him.
“They cannot be allowed to use this case to crush the accused left, right and centre,” Adv Phafane KC said.
Justice Monaphathi then asked him what he should do to protect the accused persons, to which Adv Phafane KC replied: “The court should call the accused persons to plead to the charges and if the Crown fails to prosecute them, they should be acquitted.”
Adv Lenono said he was withdrawing the charges, which the prosecution could bring later if it wished.
In his ruling Justice Monaphathi said: “I am persuaded that something must be done.
“I cannot also disguise that on the part of Mr Moleleki there is prejudice and that again must be avoided.
“As regards the other four accused persons there is also prejudice.
“But most importantly the court’s decision must be obeyed. The court’s dignity is also affected. If orders of the court are not obeyed, what remains to our democracy?
“I now ask the accused to stand up and plead.”
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges and were all set free.
“You are acquitted; you are discharged; you are not guilty,” Justice Monaphathi said.
The case was prosecuted by Adv Lenono after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leaba Thetsane KC replaced Advocate Siphosihle Mdhluli in May 2015.
Mr Moleleki’a co-accused were represented by Adv Zwelakhe Mda KC.