IN THE HIGH COURT OF LESOTHO
In the Appeal of :
NTHOFEELA KHUBETSOANA Appellant
REASONS FOR JUDGMENT
Filed by the Hon. Chief Justice, Mr. Justice T.S. Cotran
on the 8th day of November
On the 1st November 1982 I allowed the appeal and ordered
a retrial before another magistrate. I said I will file my
reasons later and these now follow.
On the 3rd August 1982 the appellant was charged with
stock theft. The particulars of the charge stated that he
stole goats. It did not specify how many. The offence is
alleged to have taken place on 5th October 1981.
The magistrate noted that the appellant pleaded guilty
to receiving stolen property knowing it to be stolen. That of
course was not what he was charged with although it is a
competent verdict on a charge of theft. The appellant had taken
the oath before me in the High Court and said he denied that
he stole the goats (which is clear though the magistrate did not
record it) but when the magistrate asked if they were found in
his possession he said they were. He did not tell him he knew
either at the time of receipt or later that they were stolen.
This assertion I believe because it is clear from what the
appellant told the magistrate in mitigation that his explanation
was that the goats were given to him by a certain Seabata. The
appellant was unrepresented and one assumes he does not
appreciate the niceties of the crime of receiving stolen goods.
Ten months had elapsed between the theft and the finding
in possession. The prosecutor's outline of the facts did not
indicate what evidence he had to prove guilty knowledge by the
appellant. The possession was not recent.
All magistrates should be extremely careful in cases of
this nature. The exact words of the accused person ought to be
reproduced. From my many years of experience as a magistrate
unrepresented accused often say "if they (the goods - in this
instance the stock) were found in my possession and they were
stolen, if the law says I am guilty then I am guilty" but this
does not tantamount to a plea of guilty at all.
In short I am not satisfied that the plea was not
unequivocal in the circumstances of this case.
The conviction and sentence are set aside. The appellant
should be tried before another magistrate, a plea of not guilty
should be entered,and the trial should proceed in the normal
In the meantime the amount of cash bail paid pending
appeal would remain deposited as well as appellant's passport
in the Clerk of Court's office in the Leribe Subordinate Court
until the retrial is finalised.
8th November, 1982
For Appellant: Adv. G.N.Mofolo
For Respondent: Mr. Peete
cc: The Magistrate, Leribe
O/C Police, "
O/C Prison, "
O/C Maseru Central Prison
Director of Prisons
All Magistrates & PPs
Public Prosecutor, Leribe
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