Ramakatane finally free
Published on August 15, 2014 · No Comments
MASERU – Prominent local businessman Jessie Ramakatane is finally free to come home, after the High Court on Tuesday this week revoked a second warrant for his extradition from South Africa.
Ramakatane, who owns several business properties in Lesotho, fled the country in 2007, together with two other Basotho nationals, after they were implicated in political disturbances that prevailed at the time.
The entrepreneur who has since been in hiding in South Africa is wanted for a battery of charges comprising murder, attempted murder and robbery.
He claims in his defence that all charges were trumped up and veiled to have him extradited for alleged political offences.
The second warrant for Ramakatane’s extradition came in the wake of the first one, which High Court judge, Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane had in December last year ordered to be cancelled.
Hlajoane had also instructed that the applicant be granted amnesty for any offence which led to his seeking asylum in South Africa.
But in a twist of things the crown, represented in the matter by Advocate Lebeoana Letsie, filed a second warrant for Ramakatane’s extradition earlier this year.
Both extradition applications were later consolidated and turned into one – a fact withheld from the court during the argument for application to cancel the latter warrant.
In his pleas, Ramakatane also wanted the application to be consolidated with the contempt of court proceedings in another related matter, arguing both the parties and the course of action were substantially the same.
He further contended the people that he had fled the country with had been granted amnesty while he was left out.
He referred to the offences he faced as political; contrary to the crown’s assertions that the charges were criminal and would not warrant a political asylum.
“It would seem that all the same, the government of Lesotho considered them as political offences, hence, the amnesty. The respondents in their answering affidavit averred that the applicant’s extradition involved both 2007 and 2009 events.
“Both extradition applications were consolidated and heard together in Gauteng, before the Randburg Magistrate’s Court,” Justice Hlajoane said in her judgment this week, adding the court was however not informed about the consolidation in question.
“The court was denied the opportunity of making a comprehensive finding of the two consolidated extradition applications, hence why the court came to the decision that such events were not substantiated,” the judge showed, saying the decision made in the first application automatically affected the present one.
There has been an attempt, Hlajoane further indicated, by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to circumvent the move taken to combine the two applications.
“A message conveyed to the director general, department of justice and constitutional development in Pretoria has been that the extradition application for the 2007 events be withdrawn and proceed with that for 2009,” she noted.
She said the submission made on January 29 2014 came way after the decision to cancel the first application was made.
“The court has already shown that since the two applications had been consolidated, the decision in the first application affected both the 2007 and 2009 events as there had remained only one application for both,” she said, adding it was unprofessional for the crown to withhold the issue of consolidating the two applications.
She added: “I still recall when the court kept on asking about any documentary proof for the 2009 application from the respondents as they had done with the 2007 application but they were never made available.”
Ramakatane, who was represented by King’s Counsel Molefi Ntlhoki, had cited the DPP, the attorney general, the justice minister together with the minister of law and constitutional affairs as respondents in the matter.
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