MASERU — A court heard how a headman at Sekamaneng in Berea demanded a bribe for services offered by his office. Testifying for the crown Bokoro Frank Tau, who is a soldier told Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase on Tuesday the chief of Sekamaneng tried to induce him to pay a M500 bribe to facilitate transfer of ownership of a residential site into his name.
Bokoro said he went to the chief’s office with his brother to transfer documents for a residential site. He told the court it could be on October 2, 2004 when he met the chief at Palace Hotel. “I went to his office with my brother Dingane Tau for services of transferring a residential site from my late brother’s name into mine,” he said.
The witness told the court he and his brother went to the accused because the first Form C (property transfer document) states such service could be provided by a chief’s office. The two brothers were received by the chief’s clerk named Khoele who told Dingane that matters pertaining to Form Cs are dealt with by the chief personally.
The clerk told them the chief would meet them at his homestead. “We went to the headman’s house and we found him with another man called Lucky,” the witness said. After his elder brother Dingane told them the reason they had come to see the chief, he (chief) told them that he understood their problem but allegedly added: “I will only help your brother if he could put M500 on the table.”
After looking at the form the chief raised a number of queries which the witness alleges were just meant to induce him to pay a bribe. For instance the chief allegedly claimed the signature was not that of Phale Mokoena, who had signed.
Bokoro then went to fetch Mokoena to prove the signature was his. However after failing to find him he returned where he had left his brother Dingane with the chief’s clerk. Bokoro returned to Mokoena’s home and explained their problem to him.
“Mr Mokoena wrote a letter confirming that the signature was his,” he said. The brothers then returned home. The two returned the following day to find the chief’s clerk, Khoele, who told them that the chief was not there. Khoele gave them the chief’s phone numbers. “I phoned him but the chief said he was in TY and he asked if I had M500. When I said no, the chief said he was in TY and he could not use his petrol to come and help me without paying anything.
“Morena Napo said he could only assist me if I paid M500 bribe,” Bokoro said. Bokoro told the accused that he could be “thirsty”, and if that is the case, he could make an appointment but he did not think he (the chief) would need as much as M500 just for a drink. But the chief insisted on being paid M500. The witness said his understanding was that Morena Napo was a former soldier, now a chief and therefore he was the first peace officer.
He said his understanding was that since the accused is a gazetted chief, Bokoro’s opinion was that he is paid a salary out of the public funds. “Like me and between us no one has to bribe each other,” Bokoro said. He told the chief that he was going to work to get the M500 that the chief demanded.
The brothers then went to report the matter to Mabote Police Station where they met Senior Inspector Letsie who advised them to see Senior Inspector Hlaele at police headquarters’ fraud department. Finally, the accused was arrested through a police trap. Headman Chief Napo Majara, 48, pleaded not guilty in the High Court to a charge of bribery and two alternative counts.
According to the indictment, the accused “being a state official, did unlawfully and intentionally and corruptly demanded M500 from Bokoro Frank Tau.” He is alternatively charged with contravening section 21 (1) read with section 34 of the Prevention of Corruption and Economic Offences Act, 1999.
The crown states that, the accused, a former soldier agreed or permitted his public office to be influenced by a gift promise or prospect of any benefit to be received by him from any person for approving or attending to assist in providing the necessary documentation for facilitating the transfer of a certain residential site.
The second alternative is that the accused contravened section 22 (1) read with section 34 of the Prevention and Economic Offences Act 1999.
The accused is represented by Advocate Ts’eliso Fosa and Advocate Abraan M. Lenono is appearing for crown.