Former ANC councillor Gaasite Legalatladi, who was sentenced to five years in jail for plotting to murder former North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, is now a free woman after the high court upheld her appeal.
But in a dramatic twist, she is now alleging that her arrest and conviction were part of an elaborate conspiracy and she plans to sue the state.
The former Mahikeng councillor claims that witnesses and the prosecutor in her trial were all handsomely rewarded.
Two of the state witnesses, Modisaotsile Dince, a member of the Hawks in the North West, and traditional healer Tshanako Tshukudu, with whom Legalatladi was alleged to have conspired, as well as the lead prosecutor in the case, Advocate Ditaba Rantsane, are now either senior government officials or owners of substantial pieces of land.
‚ÄúThis was a conspiracy, it was a plot; all these people [the witnesses in the case and the state prosecutor] were working together to ensure my downfall,‚ÄĚ said Legalatladi, who was in the running to become mayor of the town.
Legalatladi said she found it odd that Rantsane was appointed legal director at the North West agriculture and rural development department in 2017 while he was prosecuting her case.
Manketsi Tlhape, the MEC for agriculture at the time, was a key witness, whose testimony was pivotal to her conviction.
‚ÄúAt this time she created a nonexistent position in the department ‚Äď that of director legal ‚Äď and Rantsane was awarded the position while still prosecuting my case,‚ÄĚ Legalatladi said.
Emelda Setlhako, spokesperson of the agriculture department, confirmed to City Press that Rantsane was employed as director of legal services at the department and commenced his duties in July 2017.
This was three months before Legalatladi was convicted. The hearing started in 2014.
Setlhako said the position had always been in existence.
Speaking to City Press on Friday, Rantsane said there was nothing untoward regarding his appointment.
He said he was appointed before the trial was concluded and therefore it could not have been a reward because at the time the trial could have gone either way.
‚ÄúAlso, I did mention to the accused‚Äôs legal representatives that I had been appointed, I think it was in April 2017, to the position of director.
‚ÄúI tried to recuse myself but the client‚Äôs legal team, because they were worrying about the trial dragging on if a new prosecutor was to be appointed, persuaded me to carry on with my duties,‚ÄĚ he said.
Rantsane argued that his main motivation for taking the job was to move closer to his family.
He said the salary was less than what he had been earning as a lead advocate in the Western Cape.
Rantsane said Tlhape had no influence in his appointment.
‚ÄúMECs don‚Äôt meddle in staff appointments,‚ÄĚ he said.
After initially agreeing to respond if City Press called her back ‚Äúat a later and more convenient time‚ÄĚ, Tlhape failed to reply to questions.
Mahumapelo also directed questions to the state, saying: ‚ÄúI have no response because this was a state case.‚ÄĚ
Legalatladi said Hawks investigator Dince was rewarded with a move to head of security in the premier‚Äôs office subsequent to her conviction.
Vuyisile Ngesi, North West premier‚Äôs office spokesperson, confirmed that Dince was still employed by current incumbent Job Mokgoro.
She emphasised, however, that Dince ‚Äúwas appointed to his post following proper recruitment processes and not as a reward of any sort.‚ÄĚ
City Press was unable to reach Dince for comment despite numerous attempts to get hold of him.
Tshukudu, a Botswana national who Legalatladi was alleged to have approached to aid ‚Äúor procure the commission of murdering Mahumapelo‚ÄĚ, was also allegedly compensated for implicating Legalatladi.
‚ÄúTshukudu got a farm from the agriculture department and cattle and was promised more cattle,‚ÄĚ Legalatladi said.
In June last year City Press reported that Tshukudu believed a plan was unfolding to use state resources to reward him.
He said he had seen 42 Bonsmara cattle, including two bulls, which he was told were his, and that 20 more would be delivered once a farm had been bought for him.
Tshukudu claimed that ‚Äúthose close to Mahumapelo‚ÄĚ had told him that the former ANC provincial chairperson had ordered a farm and livestock to be bought for him once he returned from witness protection.
He exited the programme after Legalatladi was sentenced to five years in prison in October 2017.
Tshukudu denied being part of any plot to kill Mahumapelo and said he also did not work with Mahumapelo to frame Legalatladi.
The still aggrieved Legalatladi maintained her innocence, saying: ‚ÄúIf I truly wanted to kill him Mahumapelo and the others she was accused of plotting to kill] I would have done it myself, and not solicited the services of a traditional healer.
‚ÄúIf I was the kind of person capable of killing I would not have gone through a traditional healer,‚ÄĚ she said.
Through her lawyer, Butch Schoeman, Legalatladi told City Press that she would now pursue a ‚Äúsignificant civil claim‚ÄĚ as she was adamant that there was a conspiracy leading to her conviction.
Last month the high court set aside Legalatladi‚Äôs conviction of conspiracy to commit murder and the sentence handed down by magistrate Stephen du Toit at the Lehurutshe Magistrates‚Äô Court in 2017.
Legalatladi had pleaded not guilty to all the charges, arguing that the state employed the services of Tshukudu as a police informer and she was entrapped while consulting Tshukudu.
Tshukudu reported to the police that Legalatladi had asked her for poison to kill Mahumapelo.
Handing down judgment after Legalatladi‚Äôs appeal, North West High Court judges Ronald Hendricks and Tebogo Djaje found that ‚Äúthe mere subjective contemplation of future criminal conduct which does not find outward expression in deed or commission is not criminally punishable‚ÄĚ.
They further ruled that ‚Äúneither do words, which amount merely to the expression of an opinion, a wish, or a desire, necessarily qualify as incitement‚ÄĚ.
Hence the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused possessed the requisite intention, with the aim of influencing the mind of another to commit a crime.
They upheld the appeal and set aside the conviction and sentencing.