FRANCISTOWN: A 24-year-old man from Sefhare cumulatively sentenced to 15 years in jail for robbery and rape of an American Peace Corp appeared before the High Court on Friday to appeal his conviction and sentence.
In April 2016, Magistrate Game Mooketsi convicted Disang Lebakeng of robbing and raping a US Peace Corp. Lebakeng allegedly committed the offences in 2015 between the Machaneng and Mahalapye villages in the bush. Three cellular phones, an iPad and foreign currency that Lebakeng allegedly stole from the victim were later recovered from him.
Motivating his application and why he thought the conviction and sentence were not proper before Justice Barnabas Nyamadzabo, Lebakeng said he asked for bail pending the commencement of his trial but the lower court refused to grant him one.
He continued: “I also told the Magistrate that I would look for an attorney but was not given the opportunity. I was told to take my
concerns before the High Court but on short notice; the Magistrate set the matter for trial before my pleas were taken to the High Court. No DNA tests were conducted to properly link me with the offences. My fingerprints were not taken. Also, no casting of footprints was done at the crime scene to link me with the offences".
Lebakeng also that he was prejudiced during his trial because he did not understand the statements since they were written in English.
“I asked for the statements to be translated from English to Setswana but my pleas fell on deaf ears. I also wanted the Magistrate to recuse herself from the trial but she refused. She intimidated me throughout the trial. The Magistrate failed to explain the consequences of Section 178 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to me (The section deals with the presence of accused in court). This greatly prejudiced me,” Lebakeng said.
In response, prosecutor Onneile Tselawa from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions said that the state has addressed all the concerns that the accused raised in court in its papers.
When asked by Nyamadzabo if DNA was never conducted as the appellant alleged and if Section 178 was never explained to the appellant,
Tselawa answered: “The issue of DNA is aptly dealt with in the judgment. This shows that the appellant did not read the Magistrate’s judgment. On the issue of Section 178, on many occasions the appellant chose not to appear in court without any lawful cause while his trial was still ongoing. The magistrate ended up taking a decision in his absence as per the dictates of this Section.”
American Peace Corps across the world have proven more vulnerable to rape in the last decade. More than 1,000 young American women were raped or sexually assaulted between the 2001 and 2011 while serving as Peace Corps volunteers in foreign countries. The disclosure is in accordance with an investigation done by ABC News 20/20 a few years ago.
Judgment in the application will be delivered in December.