Magistrate threatens to release Nkomazana in theft, graft case


South Regional magistrate Masilo Mathaka has threatened to release Bhekiwe Nkomazana in a long-dragging multimillion pula theft, graft case.

Nkomazana, who is of Zimbabwean origin, and a former gardener,   is facing 10 charges including alleged theft of P3.9 million from his late boss, Solomon Tlhapane.

Mathaka, clearly irked by lack of action from prosecution, said he was left with  no choice but to strike off the matter and acquit the accused.

Nkomazana is charged with corruption, theft, entering the country through an illegal point, forgery of title deeds, obtaining by false pretences and giving false information while applying for a Botswana national identity card and fraudulently obtaining a Botswana passport under the pretext that he was a registered citizen. 

He is charged alongside, attorney Letlhogonolo Makgane, Billy Molefe, Motlalepula Molefe, attorney Bhekimpilo Moyo, Tebogo Edwin Koketso, Ketshepile Sharon Lempehu, Jerico Murima, Othusitse Seoke, Daniel Gasefiwe, Keothupilwe Aobakwe, Levy Mosweu and Pula Joseph.

Nkomazana has been languishing in jail since his arrest in 2016 with the prosecution informing the court on numerous court appearances that investigations into the matter were still ongoing. When the matter resumed on Wednesday, magistrate Mathaka expressed his disappointment towards the conduct of the prosecution. He threatened to release Nkomazana.

He said the prosecution was not serious about the matter and seemed to have lost interest to prosecute.

“It’s over two years now and the first accused person is still languishing in jail. Are you really interested to prosecute this matter? The lack of progress on your part leaves me with no choice, but to release and acquit the accused. We are just moving in circles,” Mathaka warned.

He cautioned the prosecution that if in the next mention date the case does not move forward, he will discharge the accused persons to allow the State time to think about whether they want to prosecute the matter or not. His comments followed submissions by defence counsel who all pleaded with the magistrate to dismiss the matter.

“Your Lordship, it’s been over two years now and pleas have been taken. Clearly, there is prejudice against the accused persons. The court ordered the prosecution to furnish the accused persons with further particulars, but they have not done so and we submit that they are in contempt of court,” attorney Yul Shara Montsho for Makgane, Billy Molefe and Murima, said.

Attorney Lone Morapedi on Koketso’s defence said that they want to revisit the separation of trial application, which they applied for in 2017.

“In the previous appearance, the first accused person indicated that he would be changing his plea from not guilty to guilty, but since he is no longer doing that, we would want to revisit the application for separation of trial, which we applied for in 2017 but the court never delivered its ruling. That is how we should proceed if the court doesn’t dismiss the matter,” Morapedi said.

Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) attorney Thankane Lepekoane, briefly holding fort for the substantive prosecutor Seeletso Ookeditse, told the court that he was not given full instructions on how to proceed with the matter.

He pleaded with the court to set another date for a status update in 14 days, as the substantive prosecutor was unwell. “I have no further instructions on how to proceed. I plead with court to set new dates for status update,” he said. Meanwhile, the matter returns to court on February 27, 2019 for status update and ruling on the dismissal applications.

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