SCA reprieve for convicted Boksburg murderer
The SCA last week found Bezuidenhout, who represented himself at trial, had not been given a fair shot at making out his case and ordered a new hearing be convened.
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Three years after he was found guilty of murdering a local cattle herder, a Boksburg man has had his conviction – and the 15 years in prison it came with – overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
But he’s not yet in the clear.
In 2016, Bisani Tshukela was shot and killed in a farming area near Dawn Park in Boksburg. Two years later, the Vosloorus Regional Court found Alfred Bezuidenhout guilty of having murdered him.
But in a ruling written by Appeal Judge Caroline Nicholls, the SCA last week found Bezuidenhout, who represented himself at trial, had not been given a fair shot at making out his case and ordered a new hearing be convened, in front of a new magistrate.
Bezuidenhout previously pleaded guilty to having been in possession of an unlicensed 38 special calibre Rossi revolver and even admitted to having shot Tshukela with it. But the position he took, at his first trial at least, was that the gun had gone off accidentally, during a tussle.
He argued Tshukela’s cattle were destroying the vegetable crops on his smallholding and that on the day in question, he produced the firearm in support of a threat he had made to shoot the animals if they came onto his property again.
But the state put up a number of witnesses, including one eyewitness, as well as a number of police officers and medical experts, to counter Bezuidenhout’s version. And, in the end, the Regional Court found he had shot Tshukela intentionally.
The SCA found he did not get a fair trial the first time around. At the outset of the proceedings, Nicholls said, the presiding magistrate explained the consequences of declining legal representation to Bezuidenhout.
But, the appellate judge went on, he should have intervened after the state closed its case.
“Notwithstanding the technical nature of some of the state’s evidence, it was not drawn to the attention of [Bezuidenhout] that the expert evidence may need to be rebutted by an expert witness.
“Nor was it suggested to him that, in light of the evidence led by the state, he should reconsider whether he required legal representation,” said Nicholls.
“The magistrate, after explaining the consequences of the evidence, should have asked [Bezuidenhout] whether he wished to call expert witnesses in rebuttal, and, if necessary, assisted him in doing so. It would also have been apt at this stage to suggest to [Bezuidenhout] that he reconsider his stance on legal representation, once faced with evidence of a technical nature. The magistrate’s failure to adopt either course of action, in my view, rendered the trial unfair”.
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