The long running case of murdered BDF soldier Tshoganetso Slotz has finally been concluded by the Court of Appeal with one of the three accused walking free.
A bench of three judges comprising of Justices Isaac Lesetedi, Lord Cameron Abernathy and Elijah Legwaila last week emancipated Thatayaone Malebye from the case after considering inconsistencies in the conduct of the prosecution.
The judges felt that the general conduct of the prosecution left a lot to be desired and that during trial they did not seem to know which questions to ask the witnesses and even failed to provide the necessary evidence.
The murdered man who was a soldier in BDF Area S barracks met his demise when he was attacked and stabbed five times whilst walking home in Francistown’s Monarch location on October 25 2008.
Despite giving sworn testimony that they were nowhere near the crime scene, the three killers who are close friends failed to explain how Slotz’s cellphone and blood stained boots were found at their respective homes.
Slotz was found lying on the road with his shoes missing. His cellphone, a Nokia 1600 inscribed with his name, was also missing.
A few days later, Malebye also known as Saddam, Khumbulani Matapa also known as Gangster and Bashangani Boapotswe were arrested separately and charged with murder.
When Matapa was arrested, the police seized a pair of jeans which he had been wearing on the night Slotz was killed. A subsequent DNA test matched the blood stain on his jeans to that of the deceased.
The deceased’s shoes were found in a plastic bag on top of the roof in the yard occupied by Boapotswe. Malebye’s incriminating evidence was a Nokia cellphone he had in his possession on the morning after the murder.
Four years later the three were sentenced to a 10-year minimum imprisonment by a Francistown High Court after consideration of their youthfulness and intoxicated state at the time of committing the offence.
When upholding Malebye’s appeal, Justice Lesetedi said the incriminating evidence against Malebye was a cellphone which he had in his possession on the morning after the murder and that the cellphone was given various descriptions by state witnesses.
“The appellant’s girlfriend described it as a Nokia 1200 and denied that it was the phone which was exhibited in court. On the other hand, the Nokia exhibited was a Nokia 1600.
The girlfriend alleged to have bought the cellphone from unknown people and that there was no credible evidence that the girlfriend bought the cellphone from any of the appellants,” he added.
Justice Lesetedi further said none of the state witnesses attempted to identify the phone seized by the police by the inscription of the deceased’s name adding that Malebye’s story was that the Nokia was stolen by him at one of the bars where they had gone for drinking and that in light of the confusion, this explanation could be reasonable and possibly true.
“In the absence of any other acceptable evidence incriminating Malebye, it was improper and misdirection for the trial court to convict him,” he said.
Matapa and Boapotswe were whisked back to jail to serve the remainder of their jail terms after their applications were dismissed.