Former Minister of Defence Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse walked out of court a free man after Regional Magistrate Barnabas Nyamadzabo discharged and acquitted him on the corruption charges that he was facing.
Seretse had been battling to clear his name in court, after the Directorate of Public Prosecutions charged him with corruption for failing to declare his interest in RFT Botswana, a company that had dealings with the Botswana police, a department under his portfolio.
According to the charge sheet, Seretse was a director and shareholder of RFT Botswana when the company proposed to enter into a contract for the supply, delivery and commissioning of Aviation Ground Support Equipment per tender No. PR 2/4/2/08 (XLII) to the Botswana police. He was also charged with knowingly failing to disclose such interest to President Ian Khama.
Seretse’s application was triggered by the prosecution’s insistence that the trial should be adjourned while the Court of Appeal addressed another matter in which the prosecution was appealing the High Court’s dismissal of their request to be supplied with the trial’s typed records.
In his application, Seretse argued that Section 150(4) of the Criminal Proceedings and Evidence Act allows him to apply for an acquittal even before the merits of the case can be considered. He also argued that the adjournment will contravene his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
When delivering a ruling on the application, Magistrate Nyamadzabo found that the prosecution wrongly assumed that once a mater has been referred to the Court of Appeal then proceedings should be stayed at the magistrates’ court.
He said the DPP failed to make an application for a stay of proceedings at the High Court, and continuously ignored the High Court order of July 2011, which enjoined them to continue with the trial.
Seretse also insisted that he was not in contravention of Section 31(1) of the Corruption and Economic Crime Act, which compels members or employees of public bodies to declare their interest in companies that deal with the public body, lest they are found guilty of corruption. Nyamadzabo found that the evidence led by the two state witnesses, Police Commissioner Thebeyame Tsimako and the Commander of the Air Support Services Tapudzani Bolekwe exonerated Seretse from any wrong doing.
“That Seretse headed a ministry responsible for the Botswana police could not be construed to mean that he was a police officer or that he sat on the tender committee. He neither voted nor participated in the proceedings of the tender committee,” said Nyamadzabo.
Tsimako and Bolekwe’s evidence also proved that Seretse never influenced the decision of the tender committee.
Nyamadzabo also found that Seretse disclosed his interest in RFT Botswana to President Khama, through a letter written in 2004, in which Seretse informed Khama that he resigned his directorship or shareholding in RFT Botswana when it started doing business with the police services, and only served as chairman.
“Even after amending the charge to remove cabinet and include the Botswana police as the procuring entity, the DPP failed to make the charge stick because of the evidence of Tsimako and Bolekwe,” said Nyamadzabo.
He also dismissed the prosecution’s argument that the trial should be allowed to proceed so that they could call on more of their witnesses, saying it is not the number of prosecution witnesses that counts, but the nature and quality of the testimony they give.
“This charge cannot be sustained. I have come to the conclusion that Seretse must be discharged and acquitted,” said Nyamadzabo in conclusion.