TOP lawyer, Zwelakhe Mda, has sensationally accused Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete and three junior police officers of fraudulently coercing him to surrender M21 000.
The money had been paid to him by a client, Mahlomola Mokonyane. Advocate Mda had represented Mr Mokonyane in January 2020.
Adv Mda alleges that DCP Mokete and his subordinates subsequently coerced him to surrender the money under the pretence that the funds were proceeds of crime.
Adv Mda said he withdrew and handed over the money under duress as the police allegedly threatened to detain him if he refused to do so.
He makes the claims in constitutional application for an order declaring the police’s seizure of his legal fees as unconstitutional.
DCP Mokete, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, Police and Public Safety Minister Lepota Sekola, Law and Justice Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane and Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa are the first to fifth respondents respectively in the application.
Adv Mda wants the court to order the DCP Mokete, Commissioner Molibeli and Minister Sekola “to return the sum of M21 000 which was unlawfully seized from the applicant on the 27th January 2020”.
He also wants the respondents to be ordered to pay him interest of 8, 18 percent per annum calculated from 27 January 2020.
Narrating the events leading up to the surrender of the money, the Mafeteng-based Adv Mda says he received a phone call from DCP Mokete on 26 January 2020, inviting him to come to the latter’s office the next day. He said DCP Mokete and some junior policemen wanted to meet with him.
“He (Mokete) had indicated that in fact the junior policemen had wanted to come to Mafeteng and arrest me. He told me that he prevailed over them to agree that I should go to the police headquarters voluntarily. He would not go into the details of the reasons for the contemplated arrest or invitation. On Monday 27 January 2020, I was scheduled to go to Bloemfontein for pre-set appointments with my specialist doctors to attend essential checkups commencing at 2pm. I need to explain to this honourable court that the said specialists, Dr F. J Bosch and Dr A. Pieterson are so busy that their appointments had to be made six months in advance.
“The medical check-up that I was due to attend on the 27th of January was extremely essential for me because I had a life-threatening episode (minor stroke), which the doctor had helped me with a few months earlier. I was feeling signs that I might experience a relapse. I explained my predicament to the 1st Respondent (Mokete) but I eventually agreed to see him at the police headquarters at 9am as he appeared not to believe me,” Adv Mda says.
He said as a precautionary measure, he asked his lawyers, Thulo Mahlakeng, Motiea Teele and one Maema to accompany him to the police headquarters.
He said upon arrival at DCP Mokete’s office, they found the latter in the company of three junior police officers in plain clothes. He said DCP Mokete refused to say why he had been summoned and instead asked them to go with the police to the Robbery and Car Theft Section (RCTS).
“Despite the insistence by my legal team that we be informed of the reason why I had been summoned, the 1st Respondent would not say. We grudgingly agreed to go to the RCTS with the said policemen. As we got to our vehicles, one policeman demanded to travel with us. He would not let me out of sight, so he said. Messrs Teele and Mahlakeng asked whether that meant I was under arrest but the policeman would not say.
“The whole affair looked pretty dishonorable and we decided that we should grant him his wish. We travelled to the RCTS; the three of us, being Mr Teele, the policeman and myself in Mr Teele’s car. I have forgotten the name of the policeman. At the RCTS, we all converged, having come in different vehicles- that is to say, Mr Mahlakeng and Adv Maema in their vehicle, and the other policemen in their own.
“Upon arrival at the RCTS offices we were asked by one Sgt Chabalala to remain outside. He and other policemen, whose number had by then increased to eight, went into the office and appeared to hold a meeting. A few minutes thereafter, Sgt Chabalala invited Mr Teele into the office.”
Adv Mda says Mr Teele returned after a few minutes and informed them that the policemen were saying that Adv Mda had represented Mokonyane in a habeas corpus application after police arrested him.
He said the police officers claimed that Mokonyane’s wife had said her husband was in police custody. The officers had said the wife had also informed them that she had used the money obtained by her husband from a robbery to pay Adv Mda to represent Mokonyane in the habeas corpus application filed on his behalf by his wife.
Adv Mda says he then confirmed that he was indeed representing Mokonyane in the habeas corpus application.
“The said policemen then demanded that I should hand over the fees paid in respect of the habeas application or else they were detaining me until I had paid it. I informed Mr Teele that I would not give them fees which I had earned for rendering professional services to a client, and that in any event the money was deposited into a bank. We agreed with Mr Teele that the demand was unlawful and also extortion. In any event, in the context of criminal procedure, it was not clear what the money was needed for as it could not be an exhibit. All these issues were raised through my instruction by Mr Teele to the police. I also instructed Mr Teele to convey my attitude and my state of health, which he did.
“Mr Teele returned to tell me that that the policemen were insisting that they wanted the money, and that unless I withdrew the money, they were detaining me. They did not explain the charge they would be detaining me on. I was feeling weak on account of my ill health but I was determined that the policemen should go ahead and detain me if they were so minded.
“I was however advised by the Counsel (Teele) that it would be folly of me to risk my life to fail to attend a life-saving check-up in Bloemfontein. The fact that it would take time to seek a court order and that appointment was for that very day in the afternoon, it made sense that I had to find a way out of the problem. Faced with the above problems I was constrained to accept advice that I should withdraw the money, and give it to the policemen. This was typical extortion and unlawful in every conceivable way. “I instructed Mr Teele to inform the policemen that I would withdraw the money and give it to them under protest,” Adv Mda said. He said Mr Teele then drove him to one of the banks where he withdrew the money. They were tailed by a police vehicle when they went to withdraw the money, he said.
“I duly made the withdrawal and handed the money to the policemen who made an entry into their occurrence book. I was then allowed to leave and I rushed to Bloemfontein to attend my said medical check-ups. Unfortunately, I could not make it. It was too late.
“DCP Mokete went on PC FM Radio and alleged that the money was the proceeds of crime. He also said that I should not have been paid the legal fees. He further alleged that there was an aspect of money laundering involved in the payment of such fees. I confirm that I have never been charged by the said policeman and his juniors…The demand and seizure of the said money was unlawful and unconstitutional,” Adv Mda argues in his court papers.