Thahane’s M24m fraud case deferred
HIGH Court judge Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi yesterday postponed to June 2015, a case in which former Energy, Meteorology and Water Affairs minister Timothy Thahane is being accused of defrauding government of over M24 million.
The case revolves around the Block Farming Project which the government embarked on six years ago when Dr Thahane was still Finance and Development Planning minister.
The case was set to proceed before the High Court yesterday, today and tomorrow, as well as Tuesday and Wednesday next week.however, Justice Monaphathi was forced to postpone the much-awaited trial to 1 June 2015 year after Dr Thahane’s South African lawyer, Senior Counsel Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza applied for a postponement.
Advocate Ntsebeza argued he needed more time to prepare for his client’s defence as he is facing a very serious charge of fraud under the Penal Code Act of 2010.The lawyer submitted he only got instructions to represent Dr Thahane on Friday last week and had only spent 10 hours with him, which he argued was not enough.
Justice Monaphathi said he was reluctantly postponing the case. Delivering the ruling after a daylong argument, Justice Monaphathi said: “The decision I am about to make is not easy.“i want it to be noted that the dates of today (Wednesday) to Friday, as well as those of next week were set in agreement by both counsel.“however, I am granting the postponement because I was compelled by law to protect the rights of every accused person in a criminal trial as provided for by Lesotho’s Constitution and other laws.
“Principles about the rights of accused persons are tried and are of general application.“the principles of the rights of the accused are involved here. We might even have to forget the history of this case itself.
“Some may see prejudice in the delay of this case while others may see reason out of the delay.
“What is important is the right of the accused persons. It doesn’t matter what Mr Thahane is or what he has been; he has rights. That’s what I am concerned about now.“i repeat that I am making this decision reluctantly, but the accused’s rights come first.
“Cases of this nature have made a lot of noise in society and this one might also cause some noise. But that is not what influences the court,” he said.the judge then ordered the lawyers to secure fresh dates for the hearing and they agreed on 1 June next year.
Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the state, Senior Counsel Guido Penzhorn, had suggested that the case could at least proceed next week but the judge rejected the proposal on the grounds that Dr Thahane had a right to be properly legally represented as his lawyer said he needed adequate time to study the case. According to the charge sheet, Dr Thahane on June 6 2008 allegedly misrepresented to Standard Lesotho Bank that then Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, and then Minister of Agriculture, Ralechate ‘Mokose, had endorsed the Block Farming project for vegetable farmers belonging to Temo-‘moho Mpharane Agricultural Association of Leribe, resulting in government losing M18 092 587.50.
The second count relates to Dr Thahane’s alleged misrepresentation to Standard Lesotho Bank that fuel supplied to Temo-‘moho, totaling M6 076 502.68, was payable by the bank to the suppliers, Engen Lesotho Limited.
However, the state argues M4.8 million had already been paid out to Temo-‘moho by individual farmers and Dr Thahane was aware of this.
former energy, meteorology and Water Affairs minister Timothy Thahane