Francistown High Court Judge Terrence Rrannowane dismissed a case in which two former employees of the Department of Water Affairs, Baneisitswe Kebuang and Kgomotso Macheng, were accused of embezzling the Water Affairs Department of over P100 000.
According to the charges, between November 2001 and January 2002, the two men, who were based in Maun, were warned and cautioned on a charge of stealing by servant following a Water Affairs Department internal audit report. They were then interdicted and suspended from performing their official duties as from January 2002.
On the 27th of July 2010, they received letters from their employer revoking their interdiction and suspensions from duty owing to inordinate delays in the conclusion of investigations and failure by the Public Prosecution authorities to commence criminal prosecution for the alleged offences.
They were later arraigned before the Maun Magistrate Court on the 16th of September 2010 on a single count of stealing by servant.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge and further requested their matter to be referred to the High Court for determination of whether or not there had been reasonable delay in the institution of criminal proceedings.
In their appeal, the applicants felt that the delay by the prosecution amounted to infringement of their constitutional rights to a fair hearing within a reasonable time.
The state, on the other hand, argued that after the completion of the investigations, the applicants could not be located which led to the delay in the case. It further put before court that the case involved a substantial number of people who, at the time of investigations, relocated to various places throughout the country.
However, in his judgment, Justice Rrannowane said that reasons put forward by the state to explain away the delay were not convincing and satisfactory. He said that the nature of the charges against the applicants were not very complex. He also said that the delay by the prosecution in bringing charges against the applicants was unreasonable and caused serious prejudice to the applicants.
“Their ability to defend themselves has consequently been compromised. I am therefore satisfied that the applicants’ right to trial within a reasonable time in terms of section 10 subsection 1 of the constitution has been violated. I accordingly grant the application for permanent stay of prosecution,” he said.
The state was represented by Bose Senome of the Directorate of Public Prosecution and the applicants were represented by defense attorney, Wanano Lumbile.