THE corruption trial of former Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki has been postponed yet again due to his illness.
The case was set to proceed for the whole of this week beginning Tuesday, but Acting Chief Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi postponed it to 10 September 2014 after Mr Moleleki’s lawyer, Advocate Salemane Phafane (King’s Counsel), told the court his client was still in bad shape.
Mr Moleleki’s four co-accused — Mohapi Khofu, Tšepo Khofu, Kereke Moteletsane and Moeketsi Motšoane, who are all directors of Mafeteng-based mining firm, Refela Holdings — were all present in court on Tuesday, while the former minister was not.
Mr Moleleki, who is also deputy leader of the country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Congress (DC), faces three counts of allegedly contravening the Mines and Minerals Act, alongside the four Refela executives.
According to Justice Monaphathi, the decision to postpone the case was made after meeting with the prosecution and defence lawyers in chambers shortly before the court proceedings started on Tuesday morning.
“We have discussed and made a decision that there should be an opinion by doctors who are handling Mr Moleleki,” he said.
“In short, the doctors should report what his situation is for the court to judge whether he is competent to appear before the court and this will take 14 days.
“And within 14 days the report should come forth. This is my decision.
“Evidently we did not discuss whether he will be tried separately from his co-accused or not. This will be a decision to be made by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as he is the one who prosecutes criminal cases. The case is postponed to 10 September 2014 for mention.”
Justice Monaphathi also warned the public against “going beyond the limits” when criticising the courts through the media.
“People should be careful when addressing the courts; the courts should not be subjected to pressure. But it seems the easiest way is to speak unpleasantly about the courts, such as saying some of my judges attend linakeli (secret political meetings),” he said.
Giving a brief background of the case, Justice Monaphathi said he had held several meetings with the respective lawyers regarding the case.
“There are reasons for this. This is a high-profile case. It is not the creation of this court and not of the counsel that this is a high-profile case.
“It is a case people talk about in the streets and it is not our business, as the court, that people are talking about it in town.
“Our duty, as the courts, is to make decisions. Some of our decisions are pleasant and some are not. It just happened that Mr Moleleki is accused together with these four gentlemen.
“He is a prominent politician. He is a personality himself. This might make this case a subject of discussion in the country. Our task (in chambers) was to talk about the health of Mr Moleleki and find out if he was able to attend to the court.
“This court has been dealing with Mr Moleleki’s health because his counsel (Advocate Phafane KC) has been arguing that he is ill.
“In the beginning, I suspected the other side did not agree that he was very ill. It was suggested he was suffering from a debility disease and there were reports presented in court to support it,” he said.
The judge further said he did not regret visiting Mr Moleleki at his home in May this year to see whether he was visibly ill.
“Upon arrival at his place, I saw tears dropping down the face of one of the people in this court. One even went on to pray. It was wise, in the circumstances, to have gone and see for ourselves,” he said.
According to Justice Monaphathi, Advocate Phafane had reported in chambers that Mr Moleleki was still sick and had gone for another medical examination on Monday this week.
When postponing the case for presentation of Mr Moleleki’s updated medical report, Justice Monaphathi said a decision would be made on that day regarding the way forward.
Meanwhile, regarding the charges, the Refela bosses allegedly failed to comply with the Mines and Minerals Act between 1-29 May 2012, when acquiring licences to prospect for diamonds in Ha Ramatšeliso and Mosaqane in the Qacha’s Nek district.
Mr Moleleki, who was the Minister of Natural Resources at the time the offense was allegedly committed, stands accused of abusing his office to facilitate the issuance of the said permits.
Mr Moleleki’s co-accused are represented by Advocate Zwelakhe Mda, while the case is prosecuted by Advocate