Refiloe Mokone pic-(linkedIn)
  • 19 December, 2018

By Staff Reporter

Refiloe Mokone, mines minister Keketso Sello’s private secretary who is facing diamond smuggling charges has been granted R1500 bail.

Mokone, 42, and her co-accused Bokang Nthatisi, 28, Bakoana Mokoena, 24 and Manala Ntsibanda, 26, appeared before Ladybrand Magistrate Deon Mohala this afternoon.

The quartet was netted in a sting operation selling three, 7. 54 carat stones valued at R8 676. 00 between November 26 and December 3 this year, in Ladybrand.

They have been remanded to January 31, 2019 to allow investigators to tie up some loose ends.

Mohala slapped weekly reporting conditions on all accused.

Whereas Mokone and Mokoena, both Lesotho nationals, would report at Ladybrand Police Station on Mondays, South African citizens Nthatisi and Ntsibanda were ordered to present themselves to Kanana Police Station in Orkney, North West.

Prosecutor Marie Yzel did not oppose the bail applications, conceding none of the quartet had a criminal record.

In addition, she told the court, the Basotho accused had promised to appear in court for trial when required while their South African accomplices would surrender their passports to police.

Dressed in an all-white trouser outfit and with her hair tied neatly at the back with a black doek, Mokone appeared chastened as she filed first into the dock.

She stood alongside her co-accused in the dock for the entire 30-minute hearing, staring straight ahead and saying nothing.

Mokone’s lawyer, Advocate Setouto pleaded with the court to release her on R1 500 bail, arguing she was a divorced grandmother of one, and mother to three.

She was now the sole breadwinner of the family as her former husband had abdicated his responsibilities.

The magistrate appeared momentarily shocked when Advocate Setouto told him that at 24 years of age, Mokoena was a pastor and “owns his own church”, Faith Action.

Attorney Kennedy Ngomongwe, of Ngomongwe Attorneys, Klerksdorp, assured the court his clients – Nthatisi and Ntsibanda – were not flight risks.

Yzel told the court the case against the accused was based on video footage shot during an undercover operation and supported by witness statements.

Although five people were initially arrested, the fifth was released without charge, and could testify against the accused.

In response to a question from Mohala on the value and source of the diamonds, Yzel said the diamonds were “presumably smuggled from Lesotho”.

She momentarily fumbled over the value and was helped out by Mohala who asked her whether they were indeed valued at R8 676. 00 as shown in the record he had.

She concurred with the raising, triggering murmurs in the gallery.

This was because initial reports had put the value of the diamonds first at R500 million.

The hearing was delayed as lawyers shuttled between the court holding cells and the courtyard, consulting with the accused and their relatives.

When the case finally started, the courtroom packed mainly with Basotho from Maseru, including a smattering of top civil servants, fell into an expectant hush as people sat forward to catch the exchange between the lawyers.

Mokone’s legal troubles have captured national attention because she works for Sello and was travelling in his official car when she was arrested.

Despite his vehement rejection of speculation linking him to the matter, civil society has demanded he quits Cabinet.

He has however received support from the ABC (Kobo-Tata ea Basotho) Hlotse Constituency Committee which early this week asked his critics to allow the law to take its course before casting aspersions on his reputation.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger