Judge Abednico Tafa’s courtroom this week occasionally burst into fits of laughter as a convicted armed robber attempted to convince the judge to grant him leave to ask the Court of Appeal to have his conviction quashed.
The convicted robber, Botsi Kefitlile, has previously enjoyed partial victory at the High Court on his appeal against the sentence. Dissatisfied with the decision of the Magistrate’s Court, Kefitlile appealed to the High Court and his appeal was partially upheld where issues of sentencing were concerned.
The State is opposing his appeal, arguing that he has no chances of success and so the judge must dismiss his application in toto.
Smiling continuously throughout the court proceedings whenever the judge asked him questions, the convicted armed robber would sift through documents and quote one or two cases in an attempt to bolster his case only to be quashed by the judge.
Excerpts from the court
Judge: “The records indicate you were asked to plead and you pleaded not guilty. On cross-examination you did a good job. You asked very relevant questions. What prejudice did you suffer?
Kefitlile: “I said I don’t know the court procedures.”
Judge: “You demonstrated you did.”
Kefitlile [Smiles] How?”
Judge: “You don’t go about the bush addressing this court. You go for the jugular.”
Kefitlile: [Smiles] “Let us postpone the case.”
Judge: “What are you saying? Are you not ready? I am not going to stampede you to make a hasty decision. What is your application?”
Kefitlile: My application is for leave to appeal. I was not tried fairly. I was given witnesses’ statements on the date the trial commenced.”
Judge: “What did you say to the prosecution?”
Kefitlile: “I was not given the opportunity to say….”
Judge: “You should have told the prosecutor you needed to study the statements. The court does not have hard and fast rules that you have to be given statements a certain number of days before trial. They only have to be made available to you. Did you request for the statements?”
Kefitlile: “Yes, my lord.”
Kefitlile: “My Lord the court did not enquire from me if I was ready to proceed with trial.”
Judge: “The court told you what you were charged with. You understood the charge. I don’t understand why the court should be asking you, are you feeling well today? The court is there to make an order if you ask for something. There is no requirement for the court to say: accused do you have any complaints… did the police torture you. ……You said the other day you were not well…..?”
Kefitlile: [Smiles broadly] “I pretended I was sick. I wanted to study the witnesses’ statements,” [court bursts into laughter]
Judge: “Did you mitigate?”
Kefitlile: “Yes, my Lord,”
Judge: What did you say? You are giving me the impression that it was the first time you had been to court. Did you say anything about previous convictions?”
Kefitlile: “I was previously tried in a customary court. A court that is different from the Magistrates court,” [He says with a broad smile. Court giggles]
Judge: [Leans back, removes glasses. And looks at Kefitlile in the eye] “I am not naive. I have been in this profession for 37 years. Let us look for something better,”
Kefitlile: “My Lord the court didn’t consider my defence that at the time the crime was committed, I was in South Africa. I was in custody [all along] and could not call a witness from South Africa to testify on my behalf,”
Judge: “You must have at the beginning of your trial, notified the prosecution. You gave an alibi in you sworn evidence. You should have told the prosecution you wanted to plead an alibi. But you decided to wait for them to close their case”.
Kefitlile: “If the court had told me, I would have raised it…”
Judge: “You said you jumped the border. What was the presumption that you were outside the country? It must be spontaneous that you tell the prosecution you were not here when the alleged crime was committed. ….You are milking when there is no milk. We say in Setswana: O a tsopisa”
Judge: Do you have anything new to say?
Judge Tafa reserved 7 June as date of judgement.