A Maboane man in Kweneng West spent 19 years behind bars waiting for his day at the high court because the state had misplaced his case records ÔÇô it emerged this week. Ditshwanelo- The Centre for Human Rights is helping the ex-convict who was denied the right to appeal his conviction to sue the state for P300 000. Bakaseno Ntu who was convicted for armed robbery told Sunday Standard efforts to appeal his 19 years were frustrated by the state until he had served his entire jail term. “They kept on telling me that they had lost my case records. Even to this day they cannot locate the records.
Much to my surprise however, the very same offence bars me from getting any employment after completion of my sentence. Everywhere I try to get a job, my finger prints are produced, indicating that I cannot be hired,” he said. His health he said was also affected at some point while he was still serving the sentence.
Furthermore, he said at the beginning of his sentence he had fifty herds of cattle. He left them with his paternal uncle who later died, leaving then to stray. He is now a pauper. The grounds Ditshwanelo put forward on his behalf are that, “the Magistrate court of Molepolole by its own actions through its employees willfully or negligently failed to forward and/or deliver record of proceedings to the High Court for purposes of Ntu’s appeal. Despite complaint by client in respect of the appeal the Molepolole Court by its own act or through its employees failed to take further steps to remedy the defect it has caused.
As a result of such failure the plaintiff was denied an opportunity to appeal and subsequently served 19 years in prison” reads the letter to the Attorney General. It further explains that alternatively, Prison Officials denied Ntu the right to equal protection guaranteed under the Constitution of Botswana by failing to follow up the Molepolole Magistrate Court on the status of the client’s case. By so doing they breached the legal duty they owed the client which was to protect all inmates (including client) in their custody and to make sure that all their court matters were attended to. The letter states the factual background of the case thus: “Mr Bakaseno Ntu was charged and convicted of armed robbery in 1995. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison. Immediately after sentencing and conviction Mr Ntu noted appeal which appeal was never heard. In terms of the procedure which follow appeals, the record of proceedings were to be delivered to the high court, an act which was never done.”
Due to the negligence of the court or its employees the records of proceedings to which client was party to, were never forwarded to the High Court nor were there ever found. “As a result of the negligence Mr Ntu was prejudiced in that he was denied the right to prosecute his appeal at court. He served a full sentence without giving a chance to circumvent his circumstances. Client is still today trying to find out what happened to his file and despite the avenues he has approached none has been able to get any answer from the Administration of Justice as to why he was denied an appeal.” As relief therefore the letter notes:
“In consideration of the hardship which client has and/or continues to endure as the result of the negligence which resulted in his denial of an appeal, he seeks the following relief; damages in the amount of P300 000; acknowledgement of fault and written apology to client.”