Defence attorneys shocked that they need to pay state for disclosure

The crime scene on the N1 where some of the alleged gang members were arrested. Photo: File, Anneke Olivier.

 

The state has been accused of not playing open cards in the case against six men who are accused of being part of a syndicate conducting robberies at malls in Gauteng.

The six accused, Nkosinathi Masoa, Raymond Sibanyoni, Nelson Malesa, Lethabo Sheshingwani, Thokozani Sibanda and Sphiwe Madonsela appeared briefly before Regional Magistrate Godwin Sadiki in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court.

The six were arrested in September last year, following a joint intelligence-driven operation which foiled the alleged robbery that was to take place at a cell phone store at Fourways Mall. They were arrested along with three Douglasdale police officers. The state has since withdrawn charges against the police officers.

The six are facing charges of conspiracy to commit a robbery with aggravating circumstances, possession of unlicensed firearms and possession of prohibited firearms.

During their bail application last year, the state told the court that the accused have been positively linked to other robberies with aggravating circumstance committed in the province, explaining that more charges will be brought against them.

At their latest court appearance, state prosecutor Elias Ratlou told the court that the state had concluded its investigations and was ready to disclose contents of the docket to the defence, but there was a catch.

Ratlou said the state would only disclose contents of the docket once the defence has paid the required amount for copies of the docket. He told the court that the payment was in accordance with the National Prosecuting Authority’s and the Department of Justice’s regulations.

All three defence attorneys told the court that they have been appearing in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court for a while in other criminal matters and were unaware of any payment for documents for disclosure. They added that they never had to pay for any documents.

Attorney Udemudi Uriesi told the court that this was just a delaying tactic by the state. He said he failed to understand why the state waited up until the last minute with the information that they had to pay for documents. “This is just a way for the state to buy more time. We don’t know the truth of the matter. The state is just coming up with excuses to put the ball on the side of the defence.”

Another attorney, Ofentse Nkgwang, agreed with Uriesi. He told the court that the state was just passing the burden onto the defence. Nkgwang said he managed to gather information indicating that it cost R3 per page to print at court, highlighting that this will be a huge financial burden on the accused as he understood that the docket contained 700 pages. “It’s really unfair that the state is only telling us now about paying for contents of the docket.

“Why are they only giving this information now? I have never paid for copies in this court before.”

The third attorney, Justin Rangaka, also questioned why the state had remained silent on the payment matter till the last minute. He maintained that the state was hiding something, adding that in the years he has worked at the Randburg Magistrates’ Court, he had never paid for any documents either.

Rangaka said that what the state asked for was blatantly prejudicial to the accused.

The attorneys then asked the state for the indictment document, since they were unable to receive the docket. The state prosecutor then told the court that the indictment was not ready, something that the attorneys labelled as unacceptable. Uriesi told the court that, at this point, the state should have had the indictment ready, before disclosure.

Magistrate Sadiki said if it was the National Prosecuting Authority’s and the Department of Justice’s regulations that the defence had to pay for documents, then it should just happen that way.

Sadiki postponed the matter to 21 May for the state to disclose contents of the docket.

It is expected that a trial date may be set at the next appearance.

 

Talk to us by emailing our news editor [email protected]

  AUTHOR
Belinda Pheto

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