Court of Appeal nails Matete

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MASERU — A former National Assembly clerk Matlamukele Matete should be jailed for corruption.

That is according to a ruling delivered by the Court of Appeal last week. 

Matete had appealed against a High Court judgment convicting him for corruption and fraud.

He was sentenced to five years imprisonment or pay a fine of M10 000 for trying to buy a heavy duty photocopying machine for parliament at an inflated price from Itec Lesotho in 2005.

The court found that Matete had connived with the seller of the machine to charge an inflated price so that they could share the ill-gotten profit.

He was also sentenced to 10 years in prison or pay a M50 000 fine for fraud after he misrepresented to the finance ministry’s principal secretary that the finance minister had given parliament a waiver to buy the machine.

The High Court also found that Matete had lied that the M1 475 259.29 that he had stated as the cost of the machine was a “fair” price.

Unsatisfied by the High Court judgment, Matete appealed to the Court of Appeal against both convictions.

In reaction the crown made a counter appeal against Matete’s sentence in the corruption case, arguing that it was not commensurate with the gravity of the crime that he had committed as a public official.

In his appeal Matete had argued that the crown had duplicated charges.

He also said the High Court had relied on evidence of questionable integrity to convict him.

But the judgment delivered by Justice Ian Farlam could not have been what Matete expected.

Although the judge quashed his conviction on the fraud charge on the grounds that the crown had not provided sufficient evidence, it was his ruling on the first charge that shattered Matete’s bid to walk out of court as a free man.

Justice Farlam did more than just confirm Matete’s conviction on the corruption charge.

Instead of setting aside the conviction the judge added an extra seven years to the five years that had been imposed on him by the High Court.

That meant double trouble for the former clerk of parliament.

Whereas the High Court had given him an option to pay a fine to avoid spending five years in jail the Court of Appeal imposed a mandatory custodial sentence.

Justice Farlam suspended three of the seven extra years on condition that Matete is not convicted of a similar offence in the next 36 months.

That means that even if Matete pays the M10 000 fine, he will still be obliged to serve four years in prison.

In fact his situation is worse than it was under the High Court ruling.

He could have paid the M10 000 fine for the corruption conviction and avoided spending five years behind bars.

For the second fraud conviction he could have paid the M50 000 fine and avoided doing 10 years in prison.

The extra four years that Justice Farlam gave him do not have an alternative of a fine.

Justice Farlam said in his judgment that Matete had committed a “serious case of corruption” and the “benefit which the appellant (Matete) stood to gain for abusing his powers as a public servant was large”. 

“In my view the appropriate sentence in a case such as this is a fine (with an alternative of imprisonment) plus a period of imprisonment part of which is suspended.”

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