The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is disturbed by cases in which suspected criminals are discharged and acquitted by the courts on account of delayed prosecution.
The DPP was responding to a questionnaire from The Gazette, about a number of cases where alleged criminals have been investigated for various offences and later acquitted without being tried because the State had taken quite unreasonable time to prosecute them. “The DPP is worried by such cases and we therefore work closely with our concerned stakeholders being the Botswana Police Service, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and others,” noted the Principal Public Relations Officer at Attorney General Chambers, Lebotsang Mohutsiwa.
Mohutsiwa also noted that, “within the assessment of evidence, the DPP does play a role in the investigation process to the extent that any cases found to have been inadequately investigated are returned to the relevant authorities for a review of that investigation.” He further said that the DPP is aware of rumors that some prosecutors and police officers take bribes from suspects to defeat the ends of justice. The DPP warned that if these rumors are found to be credible, appropriate action, which may include disciplinary action and/or prosecution, will be taken.
In an interview with The Gazette, Lentswe Motshoganetsi, Public Relations Officer at the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) pointed that gathering evidence in corruption matters takes time.“In corruption matters the evidence is based on circumstances or hearsay. We start from just a little hint and it is very difficult to prove that. Sometimes we get information from anonymous persons, and it makes our work very difficult,” said Motshoganetsi.
He said in most cases corruption issues takes place across borders, which would then require them to make arrangements with other countries to get evidence. The process passes through different channels, he said. ”Some countries can even refuse you to investigate in their country, or keep you waiting for a certain period.” Motshoganetsi lamented. Motshoganetsi stated that the case is only taken to court at a time when it is ready to be prosecuted. He said at the moment they were working closely with the courts to speed up corruption related cases, adding that there is light at the end of the tunnel. He also decried of a shortage of resources in the department includ- ing; skilled personnel, finances and vehicles, which he said make their job difficult.He said his department was facing stiff competition from mines, banks and other financial institutions for skilled personnel. “We groom people to be shrewd anti-corruption officers and we later lose them to these institutions.”
Deputy Public Relations Officer, Botswana Police Service, Senior Superintendent Dipheko Motube said investigations are a process which requires ample time.He said after compiling the investigations, the Botswana Police then takes the matter to the DPP for assessment. If a case is found to have been inadequately investigated, it is returned to the police for further investigations. “Sometimes the investigations wait for evidence of an expert or go through different channels like ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Interpol in cases of extradition,” he said.
Motube expressed that they were concerned about a backlog of cases that pend before courts because the suspects continue to commit other crimes whilst other cases are still pending.
Some of the cases that we have seen the State failing to prosecute leading to subsequent acquittals was the recent corruption case which involved Universal Builders, Seyed Jamali and Victor Rant- shabeng. The case involved a multi million pula tract of land which was alleged to have been acquired corruptly.