One man's quest to regain his freedom
Lerato Khaole‚ who claims he was wrongfully accused and convicted of rape four years ago‚ is one step closer to reaching his goal after a daunting journey to reclaim his freedom.
For the past four years‚ Khaole has gone from pillar to post‚ written countless letters and filed affidavits‚ made hundreds of phone calls‚ all in a bid to secure leave to appeal his conviction.
Khaole’s first hurdle came when the private attorney he had used during his lengthy trial died‚ leaving him with no legal notes to pursue an appeal.
Khaole struggled to get the transcripts of his case and when they came‚ they were incomplete‚ with vital parts missing‚ including parts of the testimony from the victim.
He turned to the courts for assistance but not all the audio recordings from his trial were found.
After 1‚648 days since his conviction‚ Khaole returned before the same magistrate who had handed him a guilty conviction back in 2012‚ hoping she would agree that another court may arrive at a different conclusion.
This was one of numerous appearances that Khaole had made before magistrate Seodi Mosaka.
On Wednesday‚ she conceded that Khaole had done all that he could to file his appeal within a reasonable time‚ following his conviction.
She granted Khaole condonation as well as leave to appeal his sentence.
For the first time since Khaole began this journey‚ he broke down and cried in the Germiston Magistrate’s Court.
His lawyer Vhutshilo Lalumbe‚ whom he obtained through Legal Aid‚ said: “I was touched when [Lerato] said‚ ‘I have wasted so much money on attorneys whereas there is Legal Aid that came through for me.”
Lalumbe said it was not an easy task.
“Hard work‚ research and focus finally paid off‚” said Lalumbe.
For Khaole’s aunt MaBaile‚ who has attended proceedings religiously‚ it was also an emotional day.
“He may be coming home soon. We can’t believe it‚” said MaBaile‚ optimistic about the future.
Missing from the court gallery was Khaole’s mother.
She died in October last year following complications experienced after being in a taxi accident on her way to visit Khaole in prison.
On one of the many court proceedings that MaBaile has attended without her sister by her side‚ she told TimesLIVE that she had pleaded and prayed that Khaole’s mother “would fight for her son from the grave.”
“We never believed he was guilty. We cried all the way home when he was found guilty‚” said MaBaile.
The family had known Khaole’s accuser‚ who at the time was his girlfriend.
“We were all shocked when we heard he was arrested for raping her‚” said MaBaile.
For now‚ Khaole remains behind bars.
On June 23 he returns to the same court to apply for bail‚ pending his leave to appeal.
Although Khaole is due for parole next year‚ he maintains his innocence and hopes to clear his name.
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