Lawyer dumps murder accused who cannot afford to pay him

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

A student, who allegedly killed his girlfriend and buried her under a tree, has to seek legal aid because his counsel says he has run out of money to pay him.

The advocate pulled out of the trial on Tuesday in the Nelspruit circuit of the Pretoria high court, where Judge Francis Legodi had scheduled it to sit for three days.

Mandla Mathebula, who is accused of assaulting his girlfriend so badly that she died, must now ask the Legal Aid Board for help because he cannot pay his advocate.

The matter was postponed to January 7 next year.

Mathebula allegedly assaulted Advice Mashaba, 19, on December 26 2006 after she had dumped him for a new boyfriend.

He was arrested three occasions after Mashaba's disappearance, but was always released owing to a lack of conclusive evidence.

It was only after Sowetan's intervention that Mathebula's latest arrest became effective after police dogs sniffed out Mashaba's makeshift grave at the home of police Inspector Richard Mathebula, the accused's brother.

But the deceased's father, Edworks Mashaba, feels January is too far away and the family is keen to find closure.

"We had hoped that the case would end soon," he said. "We are still traumatised by what happened."

When Mashaba's body was exhumed - 10 days after she was killed - a postmortem report said the breasts, eyes and lower lips were missing.

A number of witnesses, including an 11-year-old boy who gave evidence in camera, have already implicated Mathebula, saying he borrowed a shovel and dug the grave from which Mashaba's body was later exhumed.

Mathebula, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, is still out on R3500 bail until his court appearance next year.