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Murder trial postponed again

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IN THE DOCK: Five of the men accused of murdering Johannes Baaitjies appeared in the NC High Court yesterday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE TRIAL of six men accused of the murder and kidnapping of Kgatelopele DA councillor Johannes Baaitjies and a family friend, Jeffrey Nouse, was yesterday postponed again in the Northern Cape High Court after three of the accused terminated the services of their attorney.

Baaitjies and Nouse were apparently lured to a business meeting on the road between Danielskuil and Postmasburg last year, where they were kidnapped and shot execution style a day before Baaitjies was to be sworn in as a councillor at Kgatelopele Municipality.

Nouse was shot in the face with a 9mm pistol and was found the following day. He died in hospital on August 23 last year.

Baaitjies was forced into a vehicle when he attempted to flee the scene and was shot at twice while inside the boot of the car and shot a third time in the back of his head when he managed to roll out of the moving vehicle.

Four of the accused are ANC officials and members and it is believed that the murders were committed to prevent the opposition coalition, led by the DA and the Kgatelopele Community Forum, from gaining control of the municipality.

The trial was scheduled to run over the next three weeks, starting yesterday up until the end of June, but had to be postponed as three of the accused sought the services of a new legal representative from the Johannesburg Bar.

Court proceedings were delayed on three occasions yesterday, as the newly appointed legal representative apparently experienced mechanical failure while travelling to Kimberley.

The court finally sat at about 3pm yesterday to arrange a postponement date.

The gallery was filled with friends of Baaitjies and Nouse who had travelled from Danielskuil.

Instructing

The former instructing attorney, Gary Botha, who was representing Zonizelo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Paulus Mveleni Mgcera, apologised to the court for the delay.

He indicated that the vehicle breakdown experienced by the new legal representative was unavoidable.

“He departed from Johannesburg during the early hours of yesterday morning and had contacted the accused to inform them that he was on his way.”

Botha indicated that his legal team had consulted with his clients on three occasions in an attempt not to delay proceedings.

“There was a genuine attempt to appoint legal counsel.”

He also explained that the payment for legal representation “was receiving the necessary attention”.

The remaining accused, Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane and Matthews Legodu, have chosen to remain with attorney Johan Vorster as their legal representative.

Senior State advocate Hannes Cloete stated that he was informed yesterday that the accused had terminated the services of Botha in favour of a legal representative from Johannesburg.

“The defence requested the former Northern Cape High Court Judge President Frans Kgomo to postpone the trial date from November 13-24 and again from December 4-15. There appears to be some logistical problems.”

He added that a provisional postponement date had been arranged with acting Judge Sharon Erasmus to schedule a pre-trial date.

“The State has been trial ready since March this year. We have indicated that we do not wish this matter to be postponed until next year and have reserved the dates for the trial to be set in November and December. “

Judge Cecile Williams advised the legal representative to travel a day before the time to Kimberley, to avoid unnecessary delays in the trial.

She provisionally postponed the matter until July 18 and stated that the accused would remain in custody.