…as Justice Hungwe highlights Ntsiki’s incompetence
Justice Charles Hungwe did not hesitate to throw out an application of postponement from a defence lawyer citing incompetence of the lawyer to struggle reading 50 witness statements in two days.
The fifth accused Malefane Heqoa in a matter where the former army boss Lieutenant General Tlali Kennedy Kamoli has been incarcerated along with Major Pitso Ramoepana, Captain Litekanyo Nyakane, and Corporal Mohlalefi Seitlheko is now without a lawyer after advocate Thapelo Ntsiki withdrew from the case.
The five accused are charged for the alleged simultaneous bombing of the homes of the former first lady Maesiah Thabane in Moshoeshoe II, ‘Mamoshoeshoe Moletsane and the residence of former Police Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana at Ha Abia on January 27, 2014.
According to Hungwe, Ntsiki took the brief from advocate Hopolang Nathane KC who had withdrawn from representing Malefane earlier this week but was unable to finish a perusal of about 50 witness statements in two days in order to familiarise himself with the case, terming it ‘incompetence’ and could not defer the matter on such baseless grounds.
“On Monday the court went into chambers to deliberate on certain issues on Mr Nathane who was representing at the time. Those representations involved Nathane’s inability to proceed with the brief hence he was withdrawing from the matter and handing all to Mr Ntsiki.
“I agreed that there was a need to postpone the matter and asked him if two days were sufficient for him to peruse the witness statements and he said time was enough to familiarize himself with the statements and accordingly the matter was postponed,” Justice Hungwe said as he handed down his ruling.
“Today Mr Ntsiki applied for postponement for four days in order to get himself ready and represent his client. When I asked Mr Ntsiki what he had been doing since Monday he said he was able to peruse 10 of the plus or minus 50 of the witness statements, in average he read 50 pages which is one page an hour,” he continued.
He said his understanding of such an application is that advocate Ntsiki was requesting the court to shelve the matter until he is confident and ready to represent his client.
“In my view this is nothing other than a clear incompetence, I say this because Mr Ntsiki was able to read 10 statements in two days so he wants to be allocated more time so he can be ready.
“If the court permits this kind of application, the results will be that no case will be finalised in a reasonable time, in other words, the court will be endorsing incompetence. A competent lawyer must be able to adhere to agreed time for the proper administration of justice,” he lashed out.
“It is the court’s duty to balance the interest of proper administration of justice and the interest of an accused. Consistent and persistent postponement of matters does not accord with the interest of justice because justice delayed is justice denied. It is with these reasons that I dismiss the postponement application,” he said.
With that having said, Ntsiki wasted no material time but withdrew from the matter and sought the court’s leave to vacate the court.
“According to reasons that you have addressed we are tendering our withdrawal from the case and we seek the court’s leave to be excused,” Ntsiki said.
“You can be excused,” Justice Hungwe replied.
That said Malefane remained with the responsibility of finding a lawyer of his own or to be offered a State lawyer but the latter instead charged that his lawyer was unfairly denied ample time to familiarise himself with the statements, thus trampling on his rights as an accused of finding a competent lawyer.
“The court always says my rights need not be violated. I should make the court aware that I have been incarcerated for more than a year waiting for a judge to preside over the matter. To my surprise the court makes a ruling today that my lawyer is incompetent and when I have also not given him instructions.
“This is unfair when a lawyer asks for four days to prepare for the case and the court fails to entertain,” he said.
He further asked the court to give him two weeks to find a lawyer of his own choice since he is in prison and does not have freedom to roam.
“Because I live in jail, I need two weeks as my wife works in Leribe and sees me only on weekends. She will come this Saturday and give me feedback next Saturday,” he said.
It was proposed by Advocate Shaun Abrahams that the accused be give the length of the day to be assisted by the Lesotho Correctional Service and make a telephone to his wife and convey the message while the matter is postponed to Friday (today) which an irked Heqoa said was nothing less than a humiliation.
“I find the proposal by the prosecutor as nothing but a humiliation because he has all the time, but I am in prison. There has been such an advice that I should seek help from the LCS but it never happened and it is not possible to get telephone assistance in a manner that he proposes,” Heqoa said.
Abrahams further stated that he engaged with the Commissioner at the LCS and said they will facilitate for the accused to have a telephone call if the court makes that order and that he (Abrahams) can assist with his mobile phone for the accused to call the wife who would arrange a lawyer for him.
The matter will reconvene today, with Justice Hungwe ordering that if Heqoa does not have a lawyer, then a registrar of the court should facilitate for a State lawyer for him.