IN THE HIGH COURT OF LESOTHO In the
LEBONA RAPOPO Appellant
vR E X Respondent
Delivered by the Hon. Sir Peter Allen on the 26th day
of August, 1987
The appellant was convicted on 15 May 1986 by the
Resident Magistrate at TY of two out of three counts in a charge
sheet which alleged
traffic offences committed back in January 1984.
There was no explanation on the lower court file of why it took more
than two years
to dispose of this case.
On the first count the appellant was convicted on his
own plea of driving a motor vehicle when he was not the holder of a
licence c/s 28(1) of the Road Traffic Act, 1981. He was
fined M80 or 4 months Imprisonment.
The fine was paid.
On the second count the appellant was charged with
driving or being in possession of a motor vehicle with the chassis or
obliterated or tampered with c/s 15(1) of the Road
Traffic Act, 1981. For some reason the magistrate acquitted the
/on the ...
on the ground that the engine and chassis numbers had
already been obliterated when the vehicle came into the possession of
However the expert evidence of Detective W.O.
Ntaitsane (PW4) clearly showed that the numbers had been tampered
with and stamped
or superimposed upon previously erased numbers. As
this had not been done before the vehicle came into the appellant's
according to the evidence of Thabo Moabi (P.W.3),the
appellant clearly ought to have been convicted on the second part of
There was no good reason to acquit him.
On the third count the appellant was convicted after
trial of driving a motor vehicle bearing a registration number other
issued by the registering authority. He was fined M200 or
10 months imprisonment and he paid the fine. The magistrate made an
forfeiting the vehicle to the Crown. This was presumably under
5.10(5) although there was no reference to this section as there
ought to have been. The authority for such an order should always be
shown on the record.
This appeal is only against the conviction on the
third count. Mr. Moorosi for the appellant submitted
that the conviction was improper because the offence, if there was
only the wrong third party insurance disc displayed
and had nothing to do with the registration number.
The facts were that the appellant purchased the vehicle
from one Khabo Moabi (P.W.3), whom he also referred to as Sebatana,
Unfortunately the magistrate did not obtain various pieces
of useful and relevant information
from this witness, such as what his occupation was and
the actual date of the sale of the vehicle. Khabo said that he had
for repairs, so he may have been a mechanic or even a
garage proprietor. This should have been established and recorded.
The vehicle was apparently a Datsum van, registration
number OKC 5139. Khabo described the colour as grey
butb the appellant said it was blue. Detective W.O. Ntaitsane said it
Apparently the vehicle must have been stolen before it
was brought to Khabo for repairs in 1983, because he was arrested and
to an unnamed court to explain why the engine and chassis
numbers had been tampered with and erased. Again the witness was not
properly in court and it seems that Khabo was probably
acquitted since the court made an order and returned the vehicle to
the prosecutor in this case should have put in a
record or note of the previous case so as to inform the trial court
what it was
all about. The magistrate ought to have required this
information. On the face of it the other court order must have been
The vehicle clearly had been stolen and it should have been
forfeited or at least kept in police custody. It was absolutely wrong
to return an unnumbered and unidentifiable vehicle to a member of the
public like Khabo.
Khabo then sold it to the appellant. This was clearly an
unlawful sale in the circumstances since it is unlawful to use or
a vehicle without proper identification numbers (see S.9). It
is difficult to understand why the other court allowed such a sale
made it possible.
According to Khabo he told the appellant to see him
before he re-registered the vehicle because he would need to obtain a
Unfortunately Khabo released the vehicle into the
appellant's custody without any such court order and the appellant
did not bother
to return to see him again.
The appellant denied buying a vehicle registered number
OKC 5139 from Khabo. He also denied that his vehicle was without
chassis numbers. He said the vehicle he obtained from
Khabo was the one he was arrested with, i.e.. with registered number
and the engine and chassis numbers as recorded.
Unfortunately his testimony was very inadequate and full of gaps
because he was not
properly and fully examined in the trial court.
He did admit that there were two discs found on the
windscreen (exhibit 'A') one of which shows the registration number
as DBY 6.18T
and the other shows it was OKC5139. It is not
surprising that the police who stopped him at ha 'Matanki were
is very easy to see that both discs have been
tampered with and are clearly forgeries. An incompetent attempt at
rubbing out old
numbers and inking in new numbers on them seems to
have been made by someone. The trial magistrate did not comment on
this in his
judgment, however, merely concentrating upon the fact
that the two registration numbers were different.
The police also took from the appellant a Transvaal
Province General Certificate of Registration (exh.'B') for a 1977
pick-up, colour yellow or orange. The name of the owner
is shown on it as A.G. Beekhof of
/Gars Fontein, ...
Gars Fontein, Pretoria. The certificate shows that this
vehicle was stolen on 30 April 1983 and was previously registered
number TBE8086. None of this useful information was referred to
by the magistrate.
The engine and chassis numbers on the certificate are
the same as those found on the appellant's vehicle. But, as W.O.
after he had made acid tests and inspected the
number blocks, it was clear that the original numbers had been erased
and these numbers
had been superimposed.
The appellant was not questioned about any of this in
court. He should have been carefully examined about the registration
and the engine and chassis numbers. He was not even asked
to explain why the certificate of registration had a different
name oh it from his. The appellant simply denied all
knowledge of any of this, which itself was very suspicious. If he
was in innocent
possession of the vehicle then he should have had
some sort of explanation instead of just keeping quiet.
Mr. Klass, who was representing the appellant in the
trial court, in his final address in that court said that he had
to say about the third count only that the accused had
to account for it. But, unfortunately, ,the appellant did not attempt
for anything. He merely denied knowledge of almost
In my view the appellant should also have been charged
with possessing and using forged revenue and insurance discs
admitted having them on the vehicle
but claimed to know nothing about them. That would be no
defence at all.
From the meagre evidence before the court it appears
that this vehicle had registered number OKC 5139 on it when the
it from Khabo in 1983, When he was arrested with
the vehicle in January 1984 it bore registration number DBY6187
and a registration
certificate of a Datsun pick-up but not a Datsun
van, which in any case belonged to someone else. Clearly there was a
case against him.
The appellant made no real attempt to explain any of
this and an innocent person would certainly have been expected
some sort of reasonable explanation to the court. Presumably
the appellant could not do so because there was no innocent
In the circumstances I am satisfied that he was
properly convicted on the third count and the forfeiture order was
The sentence of a fine of M200 was, in my opinion, much
too lenient. This type of offence is regarded as very serious since
obviously connected with the theft of vehicles. That is why the
maximum sentence is M2,000 or 2 years imprisonment. Court sentences
are expected to reflect the seriousness of such offences.
Accordingly, this appeal is dismissed and the
conviction and sentence will stand.
P. A. P. J. ALLEN J U D G E
26th August, 1987 Mr. Moorosi for the Appellant Mr.
Mdhluli for the Crown
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