FRANCISTOWN: Two police officers find themselves on the wrong side of the law after they refused an attorney access to his clients, violating a court order.
The duo, Officers Setlhako and Molebatsi, were on Friday, November 20th found guilty and convicted of contempt of court after they denied Attorney Martin Dingake access to his clients, Ugandans Musa Isabrye and Timothy Tamin. The Ugandans were later deported despite a court order having ordered that their deportation be stayed.
Passing judgement, Justice Lot Moroka said Molebatsi “at the time of service of the order is alleged to have resisted its implementation. He together with Officer Setlhako are said to have refused counsel access to the applicants who they confirmed to have been in their custody.”
Judge Moroka put it to Molebatsi that the attitude he displayed was that because the applicants were declared prohibited immigrants by the state President, they had no right to access legal representation or if granted it ought to be a truncated version where the police officers listened to the consultation and also limited it to five minutes.
The judge asserted that the “right to legal representation is in terms of our constitution is available even to persons who have committed the most heinous crimes. The police had to implement the court order within the constraints of security.”
The other officer, Sergeant Setlhako was on duty with Officer Molebatsi when the court order was served. She has argued through her lawyer, Ndiye Balule of the Attorney General’s Chambers, that they allowed Attorney Dingake access to the applicants on condition that it was in the court yard within view of the officers. The judge, however, dismissed the claim in his judgement; “That was by all means within earshot of the lawyer – client consultation.”
Judge Moroka concluded that being within ear shot of the lawyer who was consulting his clients and limiting the consultation to five minutes constituted refusal to effect the court order, asserting, “They were clearly in contempt of the court order.”
The judge found the two officers guilty of contempt of court and ordered them to pay costs of the suit. The duo will appear in court on the 3rd of December.
Commenting, Attorney Dingake expressed satisfaction with the ruling. Dingake reiterated warnings he issued in previous court sessions that, if by deporting his clients, government thought the issue would subside, they were totally wrong. He told this publication that he will submit an application to the Francistown High Court to challenge the deportation of his clients. “I want to cross examine the culprits.
Cross examining them will bring a new twist in all this case. We have done it before and it usually works wonders because they will not have the time to fabricate information, and that’s where the real perpetrators are usually nailed. I’m going to push for this until I get to cross examine them, they will have to tell the truth inside that box,” said Dingake.
Dingake indicated that he will seek to know who bought the air tickets for the deported Ugandans and who accompanied them in the plane as that would help in establishing the circumstances of the unlawful deportation.