High court: murder accused fire lawyers, refuse to participate

2008-12-10 00:00

The trial of two men who face charges including murder continued in their absence in the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday after they refused to participate in the proceedings.

The unusual step to proceed without the accused was ordered by Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner in terms of Section 159 of the Criminal Procedure Act after she gave the accused — Ntokozo Ngcobo (28) and Simanga Amos Sibiya (29) both of Ndwedwe — a choice.

The two men had earlier fired their legal aid-appointed lawyers and demanded a postponement of the case for at least four months while they made arrangements to appoint private representatives.

Judge Niles-Duner, sitting with an assessor, ruled that the application was an attempt by the accused to employ “delaying tactics” and refused to grant an adjournment.

She said they were already in the middle of the state case, witnesses were present at court and the trial — which had been adjourned previously on various occasions — is ready to proceed to finality. The reasons given by the accused for wanting to change their legal representatives did not include any suggestion that their lawyers were incompetent.

After she had made the ruling, both accused refused to take part in the case. Even after the judge explained the consequences of their refusal to appear, the accused remained adamant they would not do so and returned to the cells.

After each state witness has given evidence, the accused are brought back to court, the testimony of the witness is read to them by the judge, their right to cross-examination is explained and they are asked if they have any questions. In respect of each of the two witnesses who gave evidence yesterday, both accused declined to ask any questions.

“There is no way I can pose questions when I know nothing of the allegations,” Ngcobo told the judge when invited to cross-examine Njabula Mpanza, who said he was present at the incident.

Ngcobo and Sibiya are charged with housebreaking with intent to commit robbery and robbery; murder of Ngcobo’s father, Nuziwendoda Aaron Ngcobo, and his life partner, Cacisile Eunice Zondi, at Hammarsdale on September 15, 2006; and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm of a six-year-old boy who was allegedly kicked in the face during the incident.

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