Court turned into drama on Monday when Francistown Principal Magistrate, Dumisani Basupi, accused a prosecutor from Dukwi Police Station, Inspector Oteng Selalame, for coming to court ill-prepared.
He said such a growing habit negates efforts of the court to dispense justice.
The prosecutor had failed to account for the whereabouts of an accused person, Patrick Mohlachwa, a former police officer who is facing two counts of theft.
Patrick Mohlachwa who is the first accused in the matter, is charged together with three other accused persons, Semangaliso Mlilo, Tobokani Mohlachwa and Otsetswe Matshameko.
It is alleged that on the 10th of May, 2014, at or near Mosetse village in the Central Administrative District, the four accused persons acting together and in concert fraudulently and without claim of right and with intent to permanently deprive the owners thereof, stole two Lister engines belonging to Kgakgamatso Gaodije and Tanyala Gijimane worth P11 000 and P18 000 respectively.
Asked by the magistrate why the first accused person was not in court on Monday, the prosecutor was at pains to explain his whereabouts.
“What I know is that the accused was hospitalised. The last time when we checked with the hospital we were only informed that he was discharged. We have since failed to locate him and we plead with this court to grant us a warrant of his arrest,” said the prosecutor.
The prosecution had also informed the court that it had all its witnesses in place.
“One of the problems that I have realised is that you are never prepared when coming to court. I heard you saying that you have all your witnesses in place. I think that you should have invested your efforts into locating the first accused before thinking of the witnesses. This matter has been postponed several times after you gave several excuses about the first accused person. It shows lack of seriousness on the part of the prosecution,” Magistrate Basupi said.
In response, the prosecutor said that he has been busy for the past weeks with other matters in Kasane, hence his failure to try and locate the first accused person. He also lamented on lack of resources saying that it affects their ability to perform duties effectively.
“We have limited resources at our police station and this predicament affects our ability to perform our duties effectively. One of the main problems we have is lack of transport,” he said.
The Magistrate would not take any of the reasons advanced by the prosecution. He warned that he would dismiss the matter as the state had failed dismally to bring the accused to court or give any sound explanation of his whereabouts.
The prosecutor however gave in and said he will leave it to the court to decide.
┬á“If I dismiss this matter what will happen to the complainants? Will this not compromise justice? As you deal with these matters, Mr Selalame do you ever take into cognisance the welfare of the complainants?” Quizzed a clearly irate Basupi.
“The complainants reported these matters because they wanted justice. As a prosecutor, you are the lawyer for the complainants and you should make sure that justice is attained. In addition a lot of state resources are used in these matters,” he added.
After a prolonged silence from the prosecution, Magistrate Basupi expressed concern saying that such a growing habit from the prosecutors should be avoided at costs as it will ultimately lead to complainants taking the law into their own hands. He however gave the prosecution its last chance to come prepared to court on the 13th of February, 2015. He further issued a warrant of arrest for the accused.
“When you come to court on the 13th of February, 2015, you should be prepared or else I am going to dismiss this matter for want of prosecution,” he warned.
All the accused persons are not represented. The second accused, Semangaliso Mlilo is remanded in custody while the third accused, Tobokani Mohlachwa and fourth accused Otsetswe Matshameko are out on bail. The second accused has pleaded guilty while the third and fourth have not pleaded guilty to the offences.