Abel Nyasha, a Zimbabwean immigrant charged with murdering an Indian citizen, Ravjubhai Nawneetbhai Patel, and robbing him, on Friday became the first accused person in this country to face murder and robbery charges without an attorney representing him.
This follows after Nyasha has, at consecutive times, fired all the five different attorneys that had been appointed for him by the Registrar and Master of the Lobatse High Court, Godfrey Nthomiwa, to represent him.
Nyasha, along with Hluphekile Dube who worked as Patel’s maid, is facing murder and robbery charges.
Another accused person in this matter, Isaac Ngoma, has since turned state witness.
They are appearing before Lobatse High Court Acting Judge Gabriel Rwelengera.
Asked to comment on this matter, several Gaborone attorneys said that they think that though turning down legal representation when facing such serious charges is an awful thing to do, Nyasha was acting within his constitutional rights when turning down legal representation.
Prominent Gaborone lawyer, Dick Bayford, said that it would be wrong to force a lawyer on an accused person if he did not want one.
Bayford, however, said that he thought that as this is a serious crime that carries a death sentence, he was of the view that the Court should have taken the matter of his refusing legal representation further.
According to Bayford, they could have done that by ordering counseling for the accused person so that he could be made to understand the consequences he is bound to suffer if he is not legally represented.
“I am of the view that he needs serious counseling to be made to understand what the consequences of what his refusal might mean are,” he said.
Asked if the Court of Appeal would not, in the case he was found guilty and sentenced to death, set death sentence aside if it was passed under such circumstances, Bayford said, “I doubt that they would do that.”
A principal prosecutor in the Directorate of Public Prosecution, Kgosi Ngakayagae, also concurred with Bayford on the issue saying that provision of pro deo counseling is a privilege and not a right.
”If the accused refused this assistance, then there is not much that can be done to help him,” he stressed.
In the past when the accused was firing his pro deo lawyers, state prosecutor Ambrose Mubika said that they were of the view that he was just buying time and hoped that in the end he might cooperate.
The state alleges that before the committal of the alleged offence, the accused persons were given the information about the deceased’s retirement and the amount of money he was bound to take at the end of his contract and that they then set out to murder him by strangling him with a rope they were given by Dube.
Amongst other things, they are alleged to have robbed the deceased of 1000 US dollars, R1 000, and 334,902 Indian rupees and some household items.
Over a dozen Zimbabwean citizens are facing murder charges in Botswana.
Another Zimbabwean, Gerald Dube, is currently on death row after he was found guilty of murdering four fellow Zimbabweans, who included two young children who were his close relatives.