Rwandan trial: who is paying?Comment on this story
Johannesburg - “As for the matter of legal costs...”
It was Saturday afternoon on the last day of cross-examination of the the main accused behind the 2010 assassination attempt of former Rwandese general Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa and the crowd of journalists in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court suddenly sat up.
Pascal Kanyandekwe was in the witness stand in a navy suit and tie - the only one of the six accused to be wearing a suit. The other five sat in the dock, four wearing traditional embroidered hats. Two cameras pointed at Kanyandekwe's face.
The magistrate cut into State prosecutor Advocate Shaun Abrahams' question.
“How is this relevant?”
“It is absolutely relevant,” countered Abrahams.
“This case has been adjourned numerous times for finances to be obtained to pay the defence. That payment is coming from somewhere - so where did it come from?”
It's been a year since the State closed its case against Amman Uriwani, Hasani Nduli, Sady Abdou, Richard Bachisa, alleged gunman Hemedi Denengo Sefu, and Kanyandekwe, who stand accused of attempted murder after Nyamwasa was shot outside his Sandton home just months after he entered South Africa as an asylum seeker.
But it took another twelve months for the defence to wrap up its case at the weekend.
2013 was plagued by delays - delays caused by the defence waiting on payment. If the murder earlier this month of former Rwandese spy chief Patrick Karegeya was the reason behind the renewed interest in a case that has been largely ignored by the local media over the last year, then this was the question they all wanted answered: was the Rwandese government bankrolling the assassination of its opponents living in exile in South Africa?
Abrahams said it out loud, claiming that he overhead one of the defence lawyers, Gloria Matlala, saying that she was just waiting on payment from the Rwandese government before the case could continue.
Not that it was on the record as evidence.
“Are you going to be a witness then and testify that you heard that?” she challenged him. T
hat the magistrate didn't allow Abrahams to question Kanyandekwe about who was paying for his defence didn't seem to matter. The State got its point across to a public gallery of both local and international journalists regardless.
As it did in making a connection between both the Nyamwasa and Karegeya cases, in the form of Francis Gakwerere, a Rwandese army captain who the State alleges to be Kanyandekwe's co-conspirator based on phone calls between him and several of the accused in June 2010.
“You may have seen in the media recently that Francis Gakwerere was detained by Mozambican authorities for his alleged part in the murder of Rwandese national Patrick Karegeya on December 31,” said Abrahams.
Kanyandekwe's defence lawyer Koos van Vuuren SC was quickly on his feet in objection.
And the magistrate agreed: the reports of Gakwerere's arrest - which have since been denied by Mozambican authorities - were not relevant.
“I couldn't help but be opportunistic under the circumstances,” said Abrahams with a smile.
For his part, Kanyandekwe played the role of blanket amnesiac. For every phone record the State pulled out linking Kanyandekwe to the other accused - and his alleged but still free co-conspirators Gakwerere and fellow Rwandese national Vincent Ndengo - he had one response: he never made those calls, he didn't know those numbers, he'd never met those people. He was in the country on business, he maintained.
“Mr Kanyandekwe, I put it to you that you and Vincent and Francis - that the sole purpose for your travels to South Africa during June 2010 was to recruit or to procure persons to assist you in your endeavours to assassinate General Kayumba Nyamwasa,” said Abrahams.
“You worship, I never came here to kill anyone,” said Kanyandekwe.
Final arguments will be made next month.