IN THE DOCK
Senzo Meyiwa murder trial judge grumbles about time-wasting on ‘side issues’
Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela raised concern about the time taken deliberating on issues not seen as critical in the killing of the Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper who was gunned down during an apparent botched robbery nearly eight years ago in Vosloorus.
The murder trial of former Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa currently under way at the Pretoria High Court is dealing with “side issues”, the presiding judge, Tshifhiwa Muamela, said on Tuesday.
Maumela raised concern about the time taken deliberating on issues not seen as critical in the killing of the Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper who was gunned down during an apparent botched robbery nearly eight years ago in Vosloorus.
“We seem to be gilding the lily; we are not busy with the trial regarding the killing of Senzo Meyiwa, we are busy with side issues — I am not even sure how all this is assisting what we are here for.”
His remarks came a day after the court heard a special entry application by advocate Zandile Mshololo who represents Fisokuhle Ntuli, one of the five men accused of Meyiwa’s murder.
The other four accused are Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa. All five face charges of murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, possession of firearms without a licence and possession of ammunition. They have pleaded not guilty.
The four were previously represented by advocate Malesela Teffo, who has since withdrawn as defence counsel in the matter.
Mshololo’s application centred around the State’s failure to disclose a second docket on time. She argued this was a violation of her client’s constitutional rights. The docket, she said, contains critical information that could have influenced her client’s plea had it been handed over timeously.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Late disclosure of document in Senzo Meyiwa murder trial ‘a miscarriage of justice’, court told ”
She indicated the second docket contained contradictory statements from a State witness, forensic police officer Sergeant Thabo Mosia, and a photo album from the crime scene.
Maumela requested a short adjournment to meet the legal teams and the State. After the adjournment, he ruled against Mshololo’s application. He said that during their meeting at his chambers, they had agreed she would not pursue the matter further.
Maumela argued that Mshololo’s application was “tantamount to killing a dead snake [as] the evidence in the application is already on the record”.
On Tuesday, Mshololo made yet another application — to introduce hearsay evidence: a statement by Brigadier Johan Ndlovu, a deceased police officer.
The State prosecutor George Baloyi argued that there was a possibility of a misapprehension and that the only person who could provide clarity was the late Ndlovu. Baloyi further argued it was not in the interest of justice to have the court rule on the application.
“He cannot be called to come and confirm the credibility of this statement; however, My Lord, it is my submission that it is in the interest of justice that the content of this statement be read to the witness who is currently in the witness box for him to respond.”
Maumela agreed and ruled that this was in the interest of justice.
Two dockets unprecedented
“We are inexplicably dealing with a crime that was committed and gave rise to two dockets that were generated by one and the same police service, the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Gauteng,” said Maumela.
He lamented at how different people including onlookers, politicians and experts had access to the crime scene.
The judge argued that many “conspiracy theories” had been doing the rounds about the trial and role players involved in the case, including him.
“All of it seems to cast aspersions … against the integrity of the criminal justice system and those theories, some of which were verbalised here in this court, rightly or wrongly, are lingering in the minds of everyone.”
As a result, Maumela argued that not allowing the application could make it appear as if the court had something to hide and the refusal would not help restore the image and credibility of those involved in the trial.
“Not doing or not allowing that may well come across as an endeavour to sweep aspects under the carpet. It will not assist the image of our criminal justice system, much as it will not assist the image of those involved in this trial… and based on that, it is my considered view that it will be in the interest of justice if the statement by Brigadier Ndlovu is read,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mshololo commenced with the cross-examination of Baloyi, which had to be rolled over to Wednesday due to time constraints. DM