FORMER Energy Minister Timothy Thahane wants to be acquitted of the fraud charges he is facing before the High Court.
Dr Thahane is accused of defrauding government of over M24 million earmarked for the Block Farming project. The alleged fraud is alleged to have happened eight years ago while Dr Thahane was finance minister.
However, Senior Counsel Guido Penzhorn, who is prosecuting the case, told presiding judge, Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi, this week he would not call further witnesses to testify against Dr Thahane.
In response, Dr Thahane’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza, told the court he would apply for his client’s discharge because the state had failed to prove its case against the former minister.
“We intend to make an application for discharge in terms of section 175 (3) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
“We would like to prepare heads of argument because we believe it would be in the interest of justice as well as to assist the court,” Advocate Ntsebeza said.
However, Advocate Penzhorn said he would be ready to address the court without written submissions when the case resumes today.
Meanwhile, Advocate Ntsebeza’s decision to apply for discharge came after Justice Monaphathi explained the options available to Dr Thahane after the prosecution had closed its case.
“We have now reached a stage where the crown has closed its case and there are some options available to you,” Justice Monaphathi said.
“The first option is you may decide to keep quiet and not say anything; the second option is you may make an application for discharge and the third one is that you may elect to take the witness stand.”
Among the witnesses who have testified in the case are Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and former Deputy Principal Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Liteboho Stephen Mofubetsoana.
Dr Mosisili told the court he only came to testify because he had been subpoenaed to do so.
The prime minister said he was not aware after giving information to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), he would be called to testify against the former minister.
“The DCEO only wanted information from me and when they later said I should testify, I declined. I am here today because I was subpoenaed,” Dr Mosisili said.
According to the charge sheet, Dr Thahane on June 6 2008 allegedly misrepresented to Standard Lesotho Bank that Dr Mosisili, and then Minister of Agriculture, Ralechate ‘Mokose, had endorsed a 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.
The state, however, argues M4.8 million had already been paid out to Temo-‘Moho by individual farmers and Dr Thahane was aware of this.
Dr Thahane made his first appearance in the Maseru Magistrate’s Court on November 4, 2013 and was allowed to go home after paying M10 000 bail and M100 000 surety.