A lawyer representing former Energy Minister Timothy Thahane, yesterday claimed his client’s right to a fair hearing was violated right from the start of his corruption trial.
Senior Counsel Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza said this when cross-examining former Deputy Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Liteboho Stephen Mofubetsoana, who was testifying in a case in which Dr Thahane is accused of defrauding the government of over M24 million. The money was for the Block Farming programme government introduced in 2008 to boost commercial agriculture.
According to the charge sheet, Dr Thahane on June 6 2008 allegedly misrepresented to Standard Lesotho Bank that Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, and then Minister of Agriculture, Ralechate ‘Mokose, had endorsed the Block Farming project for vegetable farmers belonging to Temo-‘Moho Mpharane Agricultural Association of Leribe, resulting in government losing M18 092 587.50.
The second count relates to Dr Thahane’s alleged misrepresentation to Standard Lesotho Bank that fuel supplied to Temo-‘Moho, totaling M6 076 502.68, was payable by the bank to the suppliers, Engen Lesotho Limited.
However, the state argues M4.8 million had already been paid out to Temo-‘Moho by individual farmers and Dr Thahane was aware of this.
Advocate Ntsebeza yesterday complained his client’s constitutional right to a fair trial had been violated.
“At the end of this case, one of the submissions we are going to make to his Lordship is that the right of the accused to a fair trial have been violated.
“We will submit that the accused, from the inception of this trial, has not received a fair trial.
“We asked for further particulars (of the case) from the prosecution.
“It was on the 4th of March 2015 when we asked for further particulars in order to assist the court and the accused to know the nature of the case to answer.
“The accused requested a copy of the Block Farming Policy. The response we got from the crown was that they were not aware of any Block Farming Policy.
“This is another indication that the crown is misleading the court,” he said.
In response Mr Mofubetsoana said: “I am not sure if it is for me to consider if the court is being misled.
“I have tried to bring an understanding that when we talk about the policy we refer to the Food Security Policy.
“For purposes of implementing the Food Security Policy, we have the National Action Plan Food Security.”
He also said the Block Farming scheme was part of the action plan.
“Yes, there is no document that you can call a Block Farming Policy document,” he said.
But Advocate Ntsebeza accused Mr Mofubetsoana of being evasive when speaking about the Block Farming policy.
“I am going to submit later that you are being evasive,” he said.
Advocate Ntsebeza further denied that Dr Thahane made misrepresentations to Standard Lesotho Bank.
He said: “Nowhere in your evidence have you alleged misrepresentation by Dr Thahane to Standard Lesotho Bank or the government for the payment of M18 million in respect of vegetable farmers.
“And it is because there has never been such misrepresentation.”
Trial proceeds with Mr Mofubetsoana still under cross-examination.
The case is before Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi, while Senior Counsel Guido Penzhorn and Advocate Sefako Seema prosecute.