Thursday, September 24, 2020

Court postpones DPP appeal against Minister Seretse’s acquittal

The Court of Appeal  has postponed to next week a case in which the Directorate on Public Prosecutions  (DPP) is appealing the decision by Regional Magistrate Barnabas Nyamadzabo to discharge and acquit the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security on corruption charges.

The DPP, in its appeal, is questioning the correctness of the decision based on reasons for Seretse’s acquittal.

Collins & Newman law firm, representing Seretse, did not appear for the Minister nor inform the Court of Appeal of non-attendance. Judge Nick McNally said he was taken aback that the law firm was not present in Court since lawyers from the Collins & Newman appeared before him Friday during a roll call but did not indicate they would not be able to attend court.

The case, nevertheless, proceeded with State prosecutors battling to convince┬áa panel of the Court of Appeal judges why they must hear the DPP’s appeal.

┬á“We can’t go back to a case that has been disposed of. The hearing is no longer there. We can no longer say we are giving you a hearing at any stage of the trial,” Justice Legwaila told the State prosecutors.

But the DPP prosecutor protested that before the determination to acquit Seretse was made, the court was aware that the appeal was lodged through an interlocutory application.

Asked if any possible guidance by the Court of Appeal can make any difference to the criminal case and if the State was looking for guidance for future cases, the DPP prosecutor, Mpho Letsoalo, said yes, adding that the State has remedy of lodging an appeal.

┬á“Are you appealing against the acquittal,” asked Justice McNally to which DPP’s Letsoalo replied yes.

“What problem do you want us to solve? This court does not give legal advice for the future. You can seek an opinion from a legal counsel,” Justice Legwaila told Letsoalo.

“Before making his determination, the Magistrate sought guidance from the High Court,” said Letsoalo. The judges said Letsoalo was correct but pointed out it happened while the case was ongoing.

The appeal case has been postponed to Friday next week.

Among others, the DPP wants the Court of Appeal to determine whether Nyamadzabo was right in allowing Seretse to cross-examine on hearsay evidence. The State prosecutors also want the court to determine whether Nyamadzabo was correct in law by holding that copies of witnesses’ statements and other documentary material availed to Seretse contain evidence on which they are at liberty to cross-examine.

The DPP further wants the Court of Appeal to determine whether Nyamadzabo was right in law by allowing Seretse to put questions of law to state witnesses.

Minister Ramadeluka Seretse was acquitted last year October after the DPP had charged him with corruption for failing to declare his interest in RTF Botswana ÔÇô a company that had dealings with the Botswana Police Service which is a department under his portfolio. Seretse was director and shareholder of RTF when the company proposed to enter into a contract with the government for the supply, delivery and commissioning of Aviation Ground Support equipment to the Botswana Police Service.

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