WINDHOEK – A former Oshakati magistrate was convicted on 16 charges of corruption yesterday in the Windhoek High Court for allegedly soliciting, accepting or agreeing to accept a bribe in order to withdraw traffic tickets.
Melanie Theron, 31, was standing trial on 20 charges, made up of seven counts of corruptly using her office or position for gratification, five counts of fraudulently concealing an offence - under the Anti-Corruption Act -, two charges of corruptly soliciting or accepting or agreeing to accept a bribe, and six counts of defeating, or obstructing the course of justice.
Windhoek High Court Judge Nate Ndauendapo found Theron guilty on 16 charges of corruption, acquitted on two charges and exonerated on two counts of corruption. The court came to the conclusion that the former magistrate used her position for self-gratification.
Theron was arrested on August 15, 2011 after she accepted a N$1 000 bribe from two undercover police officers. The state alleged that Theron committed these offences at the Oshakati Magistrate’s Court, where she was stationed between February 2010 and August 2011.
It is alleged that the suspended magistrate accepted money totaling N$6 600 from various people accused of various traffic offences, money which she allegedly used for personal benefit. The state further alleged that Theron further cancelled warrants of arrest issued against the accused traffic offenders, while in some instances she recorded on court record that cases against people had been withdrawn, or that they had been cautioned after pleading guilty, when in fact these people never appeared in court.
During the trial, Theron maintained her innocence. In her testimony before court, Theron said all the evidence presented before court by the prosecution’s witnesses, who testified against her, was not credible and should not be regarded by the court. Theron testified that she believed the control magistrate at Oshakati Magistrate’s Court, Mikka Namweya was the one who concocted the charges against her as they did not see eye to eye. Theron further denied cancelling warrants of arrest, or withdrawing charges against anyone out of her own accord. She said she only withdrew traffic tickets and or cancelled warrants of arrest on the request of the prosecutor. According to her, the tickets she withdrew, or the warrants of arrest she cancelled, were all done in accordance with the law.
Theron was suspended with full pay and benefits until her resignation as a magistrate.
The court postponed the matter to August 19 for submissions before sentencing. Theron’s bail of N$7000 was extended until the scheduled return date.