Family, judge angered by trial delays

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Johannesburg - The sister of the woman allegedly murdered by her metro police boyfriend said her family was angry at another delay in the trial.

Double murder- and kidnapping-accused Simphiwe Mbatha appeared briefly in the South Gauteng High Court, sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, on Wednesday for the third day in a row.

His trial was set to begin on Monday but the case had been rolled over every day because of issues with Mbatha’s legal representation.

Mbatha, a Joburg metro police department officer who lives in Soweto, is accused of kidnapping and murdering his girlfriend Elaine Lenong and killing her friend Tumelo Michael Thosago in December 2012.

“I’m angry, it has been so long since this happened,” said Lenong’s sister Johanna outside court on Wednesday.

She has taken the week off work to attend the proceedings.

“This week, I expected justice would be done,” Johanna said.

On Wednesday, Mbatha’s legal representative, advocate Rudolf Buys, withdrew because he said he had not been paid.

Mbatha then told the court he had not paid Buys directly, but rather another legal representative on Buys’s behalf.

Judge Lucy Mailula said this needed to be investigated, but did not elaborate.

On Monday, Buys instructed another legal representative to deal with the matter, but this representative was not present because he had to deal with another court case that had also been rolled over.

On Tuesday, Buys said he would represent Mbatha, but added that he needed time to familiarise himself with the case, and the matter was again rolled over.

On Wednesday, Mbatha’s new representative, advocate Thapelo Mokabe, said he too needed time to read through Mbatha’s file as he had received it only that morning.

Judge Mailula then asked why Mokabe’s instructing attorney was not present in court. “I will pursue the registrar (of the court) to make a formal report,” she said.

Mokabe argued that he needed time to read through the file and that the absence of the instructing attorney was not the main issue. This angered Judge Mailula, who said it was not up to the defence to decide what was an issue.

Mokabe withdrew his comment and said he did not mean to offend her.

Judge Mailula told Mokabe to write to the Law Society of South Africa and include her in their correspondence.

She said this was to determine “whether there has been compliance with the rules of ethics” to which lawyers are bound.

The trial was rolled over to on Thursday.

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The Star


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