State lawyer Wanano Sibanda of the Attorney General’s Chambers last week pleaded with Francistown High Court Judge Moses Chinhengo to drop charges against the state in which Tshekiso Tshekiso, a Francistown lawyer, is demanding P350 000 from the government as compensation for defamation of character.
According to his summons, on the 14th of December 2007, the Chief State Counsel, Mpho Letsoalo, who was based at the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in Francistown, uttered words in court which he feels wrongfully demeaned his image, harmed his dignity and reputation.
Tshekiso claims that the defendant uttered the words of “You suffer from verbal dirrhoaea and you are myopic”.
“The words were uttered in an open court during court proceedings and there is a general principle that all statements made during judicial proceedings are privileged and it is provided for in our jurisdiction, therefore we humbly pray that the case be dismissed with costs,” said Sibanda during submissions.
She also brought to the court’s attention that the issue of whether Letsoalo deliberately intended to tarnish or offend the plaintiff should not be considered, but what the court should take more into consideration is whether the words were uttered in the course of judicial proceedings or not.
She argued that it should also be noted that judicial proceedings have been rendered privileged occasions so as to protect counsels from action against them for words that have been said in the course of their judicial duty to enable them to carry their duty freely without being threatened or sued.
“It should be noted that no action, whether civil or criminal, can be brought against an attorney who has uttered words in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,” she said.
In his evidence, Letsoalo has maintained in court that by uttering that the plaintiff suffered from verbal diarrhea and was myopic, he only meant that he was short sighted. He has also counter blamed the plaintiff saying that he uttered the words because he was replying to Tshekiso who at one point during the court proceedings said that Letsoalo forged a medical document to delay the case by pretending to be sick.
Tshekiso is represented by Kagiso Jani of Francistown law firm Ditiro Jani and Associates.
The court has reserved judgment in the case.