Sana Endley sits next to a painting of her husband William who has been sentenced to death in South Sudan. Picture: Karen Sandison/Saturday Star

Johannesburg – The family of former South African National Defence Forces (SANDF) colonel John William Endley - who was sentenced to death by hanging in a court in South Sudan’s capital Juba last Friday - has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking for his urgent intervention at the highest level.

“We are overwhelmed both financially and emotionally.This whole episode is a nightmare from which we have yet to wake,” Endley’s sister Charmaine Quinn told the African News Agency (ANA) during an interview on Monday.

“Our mother is 77 years old and this has taken an enormous toll on her health. We also feel William has been treated very unfairly,” said Quinn.

“Our advocate, who is a human rights lawyer, stated that the whole trial was a mockery of justice due to the irregularities involved and the fact that due procedure was not followed,” she added.

Endley, 57, who had been providing advice to former-vice-president-turned-rebel-leader Riek Machar, whose forces have been fighting a civil war since 2013 - was convicted of conspiracy and attempting to overthrow the government during his Friday court appearance.

In addition to the charges of conspiracy and the supply of weapons the South African national was also charged with espionage, waging an insurgency, sabotage, terrorism and illegal entry into South Sudan.

Endley was arrested in August 2016 and first appeared in court on February 13. The family has been given 15 days to launch an appeal.

“Our advocate is busy getting all the documentation together for the appeal,” said Quinn.

According to the family, Endley has also been treated poorly during his incarceration.

Read: Former SANDF colonel sentenced to death in South Sudan

“He is suffering from malnutrition and recurring malaria and we’ve also struggled to get access to him," she added.

However, what has hurt the family even further is the portrayal of their son and brother as a mercenary when they argue he was actually in South Sudan as a peacekeeper.

Endley arrived in the world's newest country in 2013 to help integrate forces loyal to Riek Machar from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) with government forces, Quinn explained.

Also read: Hashtag to help man's release from S Sudan

The Department of International Cooperation (Dirco),meanwhile is still weighing up its response to the case.

However, South Sudan’s ambassador to South Africa says it is important not to get emotional about the case.

“It is important to look at this case from a legal standpoint and not an emotional one,” Ambassador Philip Jada Natana told ANA on Monday.

“Endley has the right to appeal and there is a window of opportunity to do this now. He was convicted after a long period of time in jail with the authorities investigating his case,” said Natana.

“It is also important to remember that the charges against him are serious, including participating with an armed group trying to overthrow the government,” he added.

“During his incarceration, diplomatic staff from the South African Embassy in Juba had access to him and are aware of the circumstances surrounding the case,” added the ambassador.

In response to questions raised as to whether Endley had received a fair trial after six witnesses for the defence failed to appear, Natana said that this was a matter for the defence to deal with.

On the issue of the impartiality of South Sudan’s judicial system and the treatment of political activists, the ambassador said Endley was not a political activist and if the defence team had issues regarding impartiality then it was important to mount a vigorous defence.

James Gatdet Dak, Machar’s former spokesman, has also been sentenced to death for incitement and conspiracy against President Salva Kiir’s government.

South Sudan won independence from the north in 2011. However, in the subsequent civil war, tens of thousands of people have been killed and a third of the population displaced, many of them to refugee camps in neighbouring Uganda – creating Africa’s biggest refugee crisis.

The future is not looking promising either, with recent talks on power-sharing held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, stalling and ongoing clashes erupting despite a ceasefire signed in December.

The ceasefire agreement was intended to revive a 2015 peace deal, which lasted less than a year before collapsing.

African News Agency/ANA