Kanya Cekeshe, believed to be one of the last #FeesMustFall student activists still in prison, applied for leave to appeal his conviction in the Johannesburg Central Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.
His lawyer, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, drew attention to Cekeshe's problematic legal counsel during the trial as well as the discrepancies between his client's statement and the charges against him.
Cekeshe was convicted of public violence and malicious damage to property when he tried to set a police van alight during the protests.
He received an eight-year sentence and has been in Leeuwkop Correctional Services in Bryanston, Johannesburg, since 2017.
'An extreme case'
In motivating for the leave to appeal on Wednesday, Ngcukaitobi said his client's previous legal representation was highly incompetent.
"This is not an opportunistic point. It is easy for counsel [who are] assuming the case to believe they will handle it more competently than previous counsel.
"But this is an extreme case. It is an extreme example of incompetent lawyering. We have set out in full … 18 instances of incompetent lawyering, the accumulative effect of which Mr Cekeshe simply never had the right to legal representation that is provided for in the Constitution," Ngcukaitobi said.
These instances, he added, included constant interpretations, incoherent rambles, constantly asking for the matter to stand down because they were unprepared as well as lateness.
"At some point, counsel says he is an attorney and the next moment he says he is an advocate… He then gives the advice to plead but he never explains to the accused that the State bares a duty to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and he doesn't explain that the accused has no duty to prove his innocence," Ngcukaitobi said.
"What is clear is that there was never advice given to the accused that, 'if you sign this statement you can be sentenced to eight years'."