Lawyer withdraws from Bombings case

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By Itumeleng Koleile

Advocate Thapelo Ntsiki has withdrawn from the bombings case following Justice Charles Hungwe’s dismissal of his plea to postpone the case to afford him ample time to familiarize himself with the case files and go through witnesses’ statements.

Advocate Ntsiki, was representing Sergeant Heqoa Malefane, and he wanted the court to postpone the trial because he was only given a brief of the case on Monday this week.

Ntsiki was given brief following the withdrawal of advocate Hopolang Nathane King’s Counsel from the case.  Following his withdrawal from the case, Nathane passed on the brief of the case to Ntsiki.

But when Ntsiki pleaded with the court to postpone the matter and give four days to go through the witnesses’ statements and familiarize himself with the case, Justice Charles Hungwe dismissed his application.

Hungwe ruled that he would not grant such request from Ntsiki.

This Hungwe said was because while in chambers, Ntsiki had agreed that he would be able to continue with the case yesterday after the brief had been passed onto him.

However, Ntsiki told the court yesterday that he had gone through only ten statements of the fifty witness statements and was making an application that the case be postponed and he be given more time to go through the statements.

Nonetheless, Hungwe said Ntsiki’s plea only indicated that he was “incompetent” as he was not able to go through all the fifty (50) statements in two days.

In handing down his ruling, Hungwe told the court that the only thing he has drawn from Ntsiki’s statement is that he is pleading incompetence and “the court cannot operate on his [Ntsiki’s] basis and his own pace”.

“On Monday, when in chambers, I had asked you if the two days would be enough to peruse the statements and you had confirmed they would be enough to familiarize yourself with the case,” he said.

He added that his understanding to Ntsiki’s plea is that the basis of his application for postponement is such that he be given ample time so he feels confident about the case.

“In my opinion, this is just because of Ntsiki’s incompetence, and I say this because he was only able to go through the ten statements,” he said.

He said if he allows the application to go through, it would mean the cases would not be done within reasonable time.

“The court cannot be endorsing incompetence of lawyers, therefore this application is dismissed” said Hungwe.

However, after handing down his order, Ntsiki told the court that he was dissatisfied with the declaration that he was incompetent.

“I would like to seek leave of court to be excused from attending the proceedings. I would like to withdraw from the case,” he said.

While asked for his alternative since his lawyer has withdrawn, Heqoa told the court that he would like to be given at least two days to seek legal representation of his choice.

He said the reason for asking to be given two days was that he only meets his wife once a week and she is the one who would be helping him seek legal representation.

However, Justice Hungwe ordered that he be given just yesterday to have him afforded time to call his wife to secure legal representation for him.

Heqoa expressed his disappointment in how the court has dealt with his issue since the beginning of the case.

He said he is quite surprised with the court declaring his lawyer incompetent yet they have never even formally met to give him instructions.

“I find the ruling to be very unfair to me; I had spent over a year incarcerated only because there was no judge to deal with my case,” he said.

Justice Hungwe told the court that Heqoa should be given until the end of business yesterday [16th March] to call his wife and tell her of the urgency to find legal representation.

He said by Friday if however, he does not find legal representation, the registrar should appoint a state counsel for him so the that the case resumes on Friday.

The trail was set to continue for two weeks as it was allocated to begin from Monday the 14th March.