Sifiso Tembe has been unable to appeal his prison sentence because the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) erroneously told his legal representatives that his case number was incorrect, and that they did not have his file, reports GroundUp.

In January 2013, he was sentenced to 25 years for murder and robbery. He denies guilt and has been trying to appeal his sentence ever since.

However, his efforts have failed because of bureaucratic bungling.

Legal Aid tried to file Tembe’s appeal. But to do so, they needed the records of the case. These proved difficult to obtain. 

GroundUp first investigated Tembe’s story last year, to find out what happened with the court record and his attempt to appeal.

At the time, part of the problem was that the court incorrectly thought the number given for Tembe’s case was that of someone who died in prison in 2011. Also, records seemed to have been lost in a court system crash.

KZN Legal Aid spokesperson Bongani Mahlangu said that after making a ‘concerted effort’ to help push Tembe’s case forward, they eventually established that Tembe’s case number was correct.

Mahlangu said that the registrar at the court explained that it had made an error and provided the wrong case number.

He said they also do not have the file in their possession. He said after the court found Tembe’s file, they then acceded to Legal Aid’s request for the transcripts of the case.

The Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) told GroundUp that in August 2021 it received a notification from Legal Aid that Tembe intended to apply for leave to appeal.

However, ‘an incorrect case number was given to the OCJ causing a delay in obtaining the recordings for the case record'.

'The delay in the leave to appeal application was therefore exacerbated by the fact that stakeholders had conflicting information,’ the OCJ said.

They said the transcripts were requested earlier this year but ‘on receipt of the transcript, it was found to be incomplete’.

A second recording was recently obtained and submitted to be transcribed.

Full GroundUp report