By Boitumelo Koloi and Billy Ntaote
MASERU — Tempers flared at the High Court this week as the defence and prosecution teams debated the authenticity of a note reportedly written by the doctor of former Natural
Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki.
Moleleki was supposed to appear before the court on Tuesday for the continuation of his corruption trial, but his South African doctor, Sandra Bonnet, indicated he could not
make it due to illness.
He is charged with corruption and fraud for allegedly assisting Refela Holdings executives to acquire prospecting licences fraudulently while he was cabinet minister in 2012.
Moleleki is charged, together with his other co-accused Refela Holdings executives namely; Mohapi Khofu (35), Tšepo Khofu (23), Kereke Moteletsane (31), and Moeketsi Motšoane (32), for issuing false mining licences.
But mining minister Tlali Khasu has since cancelled the said licences citing “irregularities” in their issuance.
The two-year permits, issued on May 29 2012 — three days after the then ruling DC had failed to retain power after failing to garner an outright majority win in the National Assembly election — allowed Refela Holdings to prospect for diamonds in the villages of Ha Ramatšeliso
and Mosaqane in Qacha’s Nek, as well as Ha Mahlekefane in Butha-Buthe.
However, in apparent frustration at the slow pace at which the trial has been dragging for almost a year, an angry Mdluli on Tuesday took exception to Moleleki’s absence from the court despite being the prime suspect.
According to the doctor’s letter dated 21 January,2014,a copy of which the Lesotho Times has managed to obtain, Moleleki is suffering from “inoperable tonsillar cancer” and will be staying in Bloemfontein for the next three months where he is undergoing
treatment, hence his unavailability for Tuesday’s court appearance.
Advocate Salemane Phafane, who is leading the defence team, told the court Moleleki would not be able to stand trial “for the next three months on sick or incapacity leave”.
“The Accused Number One (Moleleki) fell sick around December last year, and has since been hospitalised and is unavailable from the court on account of illhealth,” Phafane said.
After heated exchanges between Phafane and crown counsel, Advocate Sipho Mdluli, who accused the defence of employing “delaying tactics” to ensure Moleleki does not have his day in court. Acting Chief Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi ordered the prosecution to verify the illness claims within the next two weeks.
Mdluli told the court he was surprised a prime suspect in a criminal case could be absent from such a serious trial, and questioned the “coincidence” of Moleleki’s illness with the resumption of his trial.
But Phafane was quick to defend his client, insisting: “There is no coincidence whatsoever here since we wrote to the prosecution, as well as the court’s registry, alerting them of the accused’s state of health. As a matter of fact, this is his third hospitalisation since December.
His previous admissions over the last two months were one week each.”
And in a bid to convince the court of Moleleki’s medical condition, Phafane presented Dr Bonnet’s note, which reads in part: “Mr Moleleki suffers from inoperable tonsillar cancer and we shall start with definite chemo-irradiation on February 2.
“He will be staying in Bloemfontein for three months and be admitted for hyperalimentation at Medi-Clinic when necessary.
“I advise leave from office or government duties for at least three months. He should be on sick or incapacity leave till further notice.”
But Mdluli was not convinced and said the report was “silent and not even worth the paper it is written on as it fails to convincingly state that Moleleki is unfit to be