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Cost of trial transcripts unfair to the poor

Publish date: 08 October 2018
Issue Number: 794
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

The high cost of trial transcripts, necessary to appeal convictions, made access to justice for poor people difficult, a GroundUp feature article notes. Criminal law expert William Booth says: 'The costs in some of the appeals I have dealt with were between R18 000 to R100 000 to have the record transcribed. These costs need to be borne by the appellant. This means often the appellant cannot carry on with his appeal.' Booth says indigent appellants represented by Legal Aid should be able to access their court records for free. GroundUp refers to the case of Samuel Ntshavheni Nndwambi who was wrongly sentenced to life in jail for murder. He was released 12 years later on 14 June 2018 when the SCA ordered his immediate release, saying that then Acting Judge Ephraim Makgoba had convicted him on scant evidence. His co-accused Marcus Mulaudzi was released in 2016 after a successful appeal to the SCA. He served 10 years of his life sentence. Nndwambi, who was not successful in getting Legal Aid help, was represented privately and his trial records cost of R37 000 has been picked up by Advocate Agnes Ramanyimi, of Sigwavhulimu Attorneys, who was part of both successful appeals. Malaudzi says he was only able to appeal because he got help from his cousin who paid about R500 000 assisting him over 10 years. This judgment is one of several handed down at the Limpopo High Court that were subsequently overruled by the SCA. On 29 March 2017 the SCA set aside Nndwambi Mudau and Tshivhangwalo Rathogwa Mudau's life sentences which Acting Judge Makgoba had handed down on 14 July 2003. Life sentences were also set aside on 30 November 2015 in the case of Khavhadi v the State (459/15) and on 31 March 2014 in the case of Tshakwata and Another v the State (522/13).

Full GroundUp report