Moleleki’s health ‘deteriorates’
Acting Chief Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi says he does not regret visiting Monyane Moleleki two weeks ago to verify a doctor’s report which had stated the former minister of natural resources was too ill to stand trial.
On 7 May, Justice Monaphathi, crown and defence counsel, assistant registrars, interpreters and the recorder, visited Mr Moleleki at his Qoatsaneng home.
This was soon after his lawyer, Advocate Salemane Phafane KC, had produced Mr Moleleki’s medical report, which indicated he could not make it to court that day due to poor health.
Mr Moleleki, together with four directors of Refela Holdings — Mohapi Khofu, Tšepo Khofu, Kereke Moteletsane, and Moeketsi Motšoane — are facing charges of contravening provisions of the mining regulations in the High Court.
It is the state’s case that Mr Moleleki allegedly assisted the Mafeteng-based Refela Holdings fraudulently acquire prospecting licences in 2012, while he was natural resources minister.
Justice Monaphathi on Friday told the fully-packed High Court he did not regret visiting the former minister, who is now deputy leader of the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC), to observe his health status so he could determine if he was fit to appear in court to defend his case.
The judge gave a brief background to the visit, which was met with mixed feelings by the public.
“There has been a problem that Mr Moleleki cannot attend this court due to his illness. When we adjourned, it was the second time that we had dealt with the issue of his illness.
“On the previous occasion, there was a medical report stating his condition. But the second report seemed more serious than the previous one. It said Mr Moleleki was now more seriously ill.
“Two options were then suggested. The first one was that he should be brought to court in the very position that he was in. This meant he had to be arrested and brought to court.
“Another option was that he should be visited and looked at as a human being, to see if he could attend trial.
“It was fortunate that we adopted the second option. And indeed, we were
urged by his lawyer to go and see for ourselves.
“I don’t know how to explain this except to say he was really in bad shape when we saw him. He was not in a position even to say anything,” he explained.
Justice Monaphathi further warned the visit was proper and within his powers as a judge.
“I want people to be careful here. What we did was within the powers of this court. A doctor does not try the accused person. The accused person is tried by the court.
“It is the court which determines if a person is competent to stand trial or not. The doctor is just like any other witness.
“I am not apologising for what I did. It is within my powers to do so.
“I realised when I saw the accused that I had, indeed, made a wise decision. I repeat, Mr Moleleki was in bad shape.”
Advocate Phafane (KC), meanwhile, told the court Mr Moleleki’s health had deteriorated further since the judge’s visit.
“Two days after we went to see him, his health deteriorated further. He was even admitted for a day in hospital, in Bloemfontein.
“The doctor observed that he had contracted a double-infection. He came back and the doctor’s instruction was that he
should not be in a company of more than two people.
“Even I, as his lawyer, have not seen him. I can confirm that if His Lordship thinks that he was in a bad shape on the 7th of May, he is even worse now,” Advocate Phafane (KC) said.
However, Advocate Siphosihle Mdlhuli, who represents the crown in the case, told the court if Mr Moleleki’s health situation does not improve when the court reconvenes, he would apply to prosecute the case against his co-accused separately.
“Speaking as a layperson, the man is in a bad shape. I don’t know what to say because we thought we would be furnished by his latest medical report.
“But if there is a judge available to proceed with the case, we will opt for a separation of trial. The sooner we proceed with this case, the better, even if Mr Moleleki is not present,” he said.
Postponing the case to August 26, Justice Monaphathi said: “This is a high-profile case. For me, it is important that it is finalised.
“Many people are following it; they are also looking at us as the courts. They are further looking at the lawyers handling this case. I am keen to see it reaching its finality.
“The case is postponed to 26 August. It will run for two consecutive weeks and then we will take it from there.
“But we should meet again on the 13th of June to sort out the issue of further particulars that the defence had requested from the crown.”
Advocate Mdlhuli is assisted by attorney Khotso Nthontho in the prosecution of the case, while the defence team is composed of advocates Salemane Phafane, Zwelakhe Mda and Sakoane Sakoane, who are King’s Counsel (KC).