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Accused in DA murder get legal aid

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“My experience with attorneys provided by the State is that they consult with an accused at a late hour.”

BRIEFED: The accused being briefed by Legal Aid South Africa representative Heinrich Steinberg at the Northern Cape High court on Tuesday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE FIVE men accused of the kidnapping and murder of Danielskuil DA councillor Johannes Baatjies and a family friend, Jeffrey Nouse, will each receive their own legal representative from Legal Aid South Africa.

Only one of the legal representatives will be locally based while the others have been sourced from Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Calitzburg. They will make themselves available for the trial that will run from October 15 until December 14.

The accused, Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zonizelo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Matthews Legodu, who have been in custody for over a year awaiting trial, appeared in the Northern Cape High Court on Tuesday.

All their lawyers had previously terminated their services due to funding problems.

Baatjies was apparently lured to a business meeting along the side of the road between Postmasburg and Danielskuil in August 2016, a day before he was to be sworn in as a Kgatelopele councillor, where he was kidnapped and forced into the boot of a vehicle.

He was shot at twice while trying to escape from the moving vehicle. A third bullet penetrated the back of his head after he had rolled out of the vehicle and onto the road.

Nouse was shot in the face with a 9mm pistol and was found seriously injured in the seat of a Ford Ranger. He was taken to Kimberley Hospital, where he died on August 23, 2016.

Magawu on Tuesday stated that while he was happy that he would receive representation from the State, he preferred a private lawyer in whom “he had confidence”.

“I am disappointed at the lengthy postponement until October that will prejudice us. My position may change by then. We were told that the trial would proceed on May 14 and that therefore legal aid was imposed on us.”

Legodu pointed out that he had appealed after his application for State legal representation had been rejected.

“My incarceration has made it difficult to utilise funds for a legal representative. I feel the pressure of the court to have this matter finalised. However, October is still far and in the meantime I would like to apply for bail.

“My experience with attorneys provided by the State is that they consult with an accused at a late hour.”

Acting Judge Sharon Erasmus advised the accused that should they decide to obtain private legal representation, they had to ensure that the representatives were paid for the full duration of the trial.

“We cannot afford more delays, the trial will proceed on the scheduled date. A special motivation was granted to make legal aid available for all the accused. Should the accused choose to hire their own legal representation, they must timeously inform the State.

“It will be a major issue to secure legal representation for all the accused at a prearranged date. It is also in the best interests of the accused to each have their own legal representative.”

She informed the accused that a bail application would have to be made based on new information.

She added that the necessary provision would be made for Magawu and Legodu who have to take medication.

“This is going to be a long and complex trial and the accused may lose concentration if they are not provided with small, regular meals and their medication.”

Legal Aid South Africa representative Heinrich Steinberg requested the accused to also inform them as soon as possible if they wished to terminate their services.

“Legal aid has been arranged for all the accused. Our representatives incur a lot of expenses on travel and accommodation when they have to come through for consultations.”

State advocate Keageletse Ilanga said she would ensure that all the relevant documentation as well as the docket would be handed over to the legal representatives.