By Billy Ntaote and Sentle Rathebe
MASERU – Advocate Salemane Phafane KC’s bid to keep his client, former natural resources Minister Monyane Moleleki’s medical condition under wraps was yesterday dismissed by the High Court.
Phafane expressed concern about his client’s “confidential medical report details being reported in the media” when the court was about to hear why Moleleki yesterday failed to appear in court again.
Two weeks ago, Moleleki, who is facing corruption charges with regard to the awarding of two prospecting licences, failed to appear in court due to illness and the court postponed the matter to February 19 (yesterday).
Moleleki is charged, together with four other co-accused executives of the Refela Holdings namely; Mohapi Khofu (35), Tšepo Khofu (23), Kereke Moteletsane (31), and Moeketsi Motšoane (32), for issuing false mining licences to the company.
The four co-accused Refela Holdings executives were in court.
The High Court yesterday again postponed the matter to May 7, due to Moleleki’s ill-health.
Acting Chief Justice Ts’eliso Monaphathi yesterday said the matter had to be postponed as the crown, represented by Advocate Sipho Mdluli and Advocate Khotso Nthontho, had failed to provide the court with an opinion contradicting Moleleki’s medical doctors’ reports when the prosecution was arguing Moleleki’s absence from the dock.
“If there could have been differing opinions the court’s decision could be otherwise. I’ve noted Mr Mdluli said he received the report yesterday but why didn’t he raise this issue at the beginning.
“And the crown had actually undertook to do something about Moleleki’s oncologists medical reports validity,” said Justice Monaphathi.
The postponement came after heated debate between Mduli and Moleleki’s lawyer Advocate Salemane Phafane KC who had submitted his concern to the court that Moleleki’s health was a private matter that should not be reported in the media.
Phafane strongly urged the court to ensure that “a directive should be given that the details of my client’s illness should not be part of the reporting.”
But Mdluli argued that the prosecution had not leaked Moleleki’s medical reports to the media.
Mdluli further said he wondered if the court had competence to bar the media from Moleleki’s corruption proceedings.
Monaphathi then ruled that he believed the press has ethics and that they follow their ethics as they know what to report and what not to report and refused to grant Phafane’s plea.
Then Phafane told the court that Moleleki’s doctor, Dr Sandra Bonnet said Moleleki had stage three inoperable tonsilar carcinoma and was presented to her office on December 10, 2013.
“The first cycle of chemotherapy was administered over five days in hospital from December 18, 2013. The second cycle was administered from January 7, 2014.
“During and after intensive chemotherapy severe side-effects are very common (tired(nesss); nausea; vomiting; diarrhoea; bone-marrow suppression resulting in infections and bleeding; electrolyte disturbances, etc),” Phafane said as he read Moleleki’s medical report.
Phafane said the doctors reported that Moleleki had a good response on chemo and surgery was performed on February 5, by the ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) surgeon Dr Johan Grobbelaar.
He added the accused was also booked for a combination chemo-irradiation as from February 25 which would be administered over a seven-week period.
Phafane had also submitted to the court a report by Grobbelaar that confirmed operating on Moleleki.
Phafane submitted to the court that Moleleki cannot resume duties before consensus opinion on his health status was favourable while also highlighting his client had submitted more than enough information for the court to grant him a sick leave.
“Standard practice has been that the court will accept that a man is incapacitated when there is no other medical evidence to the contrary negating the medical report,” Phafane said.
Mduli argued that it was the duty of the court to decide whether the accused was able to attend trial or not.
Mdluli said the medical reports by Bonnet and Grobbelaar had been furnished to the prosecution Tuesday 10:00 am and the prosecution was not afforded reasonable time to consult.
The prosecution criticised the medical reports and contested that there were discrepancies and inconsistencies in the dates of the treatments Moleleki received and wondered why the treatment coincided with the corruption trial.
Mdluli asked what was the position regarding Moleleki diagnosis, treatment and prognosis insisting there was doubt in what Bonnet was saying in the medical report.
“She said this illness was inoperable and now she comes up with the fact that operation was done. There is no explanation given on why the accused should stay in Bloemfontein for three months,” Mdluli argued.
Advocate Sakoane Sakoane KC and Advocate Zwalakhe Mda KC represented Moleleki’s co-accused.