Johannesburg - It was musical chairs for legal representatives of murder accused Patrick Wisani after he admitted to the court that he had run out of money to pay his lawyers.
Wisani’s newest advocate, Lindumzi Ndongeni, indicated to the high court sitting in Randburg on Monday that he hadn’t received instructions to continue.
An agitated Judge Mohamed Ismail asked Wisani what the problem was. “Since I’ve taken all my files to these attorneys, he has gone AWOL. My attorney (Mpho) Selepe has decided to disappear,” said Wisani.
He admitted that he didn’t have enough money to pay his lawyers and asked the judge if he could be represented by a legal aid lawyer.
Judge Ismail responded: “This matter has been on the roll since last Monday and I’ve been accommodating you throughout the process.”
He added that it was Wisani’s constitutional right to have legal representation, but that “that right can’t just be applied willy nilly as and when it suits you”. The judge adjourned the matter until the court’s legal aid representative, advocate Andile Mavatha, arrived.
When Mavatha got to the court, he agreed to take on Wisani’s case and asked the judge if the case could be adjourned for him to familiarise himself with the matter.
Judge Ismail agreed to postpone the case to Tuesday, but had a stern warning for Wisani. “I’m making it abundantly clear now to the accused that this matter has been delayed entirely as a result of either your (Wisani’s) doing or your lawyer’s doing.
“I want you to understand very clearly that this is going to be a final indulgence that the court is going to give you, unless there are exceptional circumstances.”
Wisani allegedly beat his girlfriend Nosipho Mandleleni to death with a sjambok and broomstick in September last year. His trial has been subjected to numerous delays; first, when the original presiding officer, Judge André Louw, recused himself after the trial had started in August.
Last month, it was postponed again to allow Wisani time to get his legal team together. Last Monday, it was postponed after Selepe failed to brief his new advocate, Zimisele Masuku.
But Masuku told the court he was free to represent Wisani only from October 31. Selepe appeared in court last Tuesday to explain himself, and by Friday, Ndongeni had been appointed to the case.
The trial is being attended by a number of organisations that are part of an alliance called the Yeoville Bellevue NO to GBV (gender-based violence) Coalition, including Sonke Gender Justice, People Opposed to Women Abuse, Awethu! and Lawyers for Human Rights.