South Africa

WITNESS NO 3

Court wrap: Defence on alert as Senzo Meyiwa’s friend testifies about the night of the murder in Vosloorus

Court wrap: Defence on alert as Senzo Meyiwa’s friend testifies about the night of the murder in Vosloorus
Four men accused of the murder of Senzo Meyiwa appear in the Pretoria High Court with a defence lawyer, September 12, 2022. Photo: Mesi Argaw

A friend of footballer Senzo Meyiwa has spoken in court about the alleged robbery that led to the goalkeeper’s murder. But the defence has accused the witness of being unreliable and is seeking to close loopholes in his testimony.

The third state witness in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial gave explosive testimony when taking the stand in the Gau­teng High Court in Pretoria this week. Meyiwa was fatally shot during an alleged robbery in 2014.

Also unexpectedly, advocate Malesela Teffo, who previously represented four of the five accused but withdrew, arrived at court on Thursday and demanded to speak to the judge. 

Teffo was struck from the legal practitioners roll on Friday.

Tumelo Madlala, a long-time friend of the dead footballer, became emotional when he spoke about the events on the fateful day. Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela granted an early adjournment of the proceedings on Tuesday. Madlala’s testimony took place off-camera as he feared for his life.

On Wednesday, his second day on the stand, Madlala was relatively calm and dropped a bombshell, unexpectedly indicating that he could identify his friend’s alleged killer among the five who were in the dock, despite not identifying anyone in an identity parade.   

The accused are Fisokuhle Ntuli, 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.

Doing this for Senzo

On Thursday, Madlala eventually pointed to the alleged killer, indicating Ntanzi.

Before naming Ntanzi, he said: “In my statement I mentioned that if I saw the person I would be able to point the person out. I don’t care about Senzo’s family or people. I am doing this for Senzo.”

The bombshell became a subject of contention among the defence attorneys as they accused the court of using ambush tactics by allowing Madlala to identify the witness while in the dock.

Zandile Mshololo, the advocate representing Ntuli, objected to the pointing out as a risk of mistaken identity as Madlala had not gone to a formal identification parade after the arrest of the five accused.

“The case is now clear that even if the witness can be so confident about his observations, and the identification of the accused … this witness is not reliable on the observation that he has said regarding the circumstances…,” Mshololo said.

The defence attorney for the other four accused, TT Thobane, said the state’s tactics would not hold water and he accused Madlala of being an evasive witness and dodging questions.

Thobane put it to Madlala that he, in fact, did not know Meyiwa very well, saying he would bring in another witness to tell the court that Meyiwa had a sexual affair with Kelly Khumalo’s sister, Zandile.

Madlala dismissed this, saying Zandile stayed with the couple in Mulbarton, in south Johannesburg.

According to the defence, Meyiwa was frustrated that Khumalo had ordered Zandile to watch over Meyiwa while she attended to her music career.  

“Furthermore, that witness will come and testify that Senzo ended up having a relationship with Zandi as well. He had sexual relations with Zandi because he had been away for a long time,” said Thobane.

Madlala said this claim did not surprise him. “I would not deny or agree with that. I know Senzo loved women,” he told the court.

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Conflicting versions of the robbery

Madlala said, on the day of the incident, Meyiwa had asked him to come to Johannesburg and to wait at a particular off-ramp to be picked up.

When he picked up Madlala, Senzo was driving his BMW X6 and was with Khumalo, Zandile and her boyfriend Longwe Twala, and a friend, Mthokozisi Thwala.

He said they bought alcohol and went to Khumalo’s home in Vosloorus, where her mother, Gladness, cooked a meal as they watched a soccer match.

Hours later, Madlala recalled, they saw a gun-wielding man enter the house, followed by a second man. They demanded cellphones and money, but were met with resistance, Madlala testified.

The Khumalo family fought the first man, while Meyiwa wrestled with the second, pinning him against a wall. Twala wrestled with and pushed one of the men, then left the house and did not return.

The gunshots  

A shot was then fired, prompting everyone to run for their lives. Madlala said he ran to the nearest bedroom and hid his phone. Meyiwa’s daughter, Thingo, was reportedly in the same room.

Madlala said he later heard the people in the house calling Meyiwa’s name.

The latter had been shot. Drops of blood were coming from a tiny hole in his left arm, Madlala told the court. Asked about the number of gunshots fired, he said he could not recall the number as he felt as if his ears were almost blocked after the first one was fired.

‘Kelly pulled the trigger’

Thobane put it to Madlala that his version of events was untrue and gave his own account, which he said would soon be backed by witnesses he intended to bring before the court.   

He also put it to the court that Madlala had been paid and coached to give evidence in a particular way during his testimony.

The defence argued that there had been no intruders but rather that a commotion had ensued after Twala’s arrival. Madlala disputed this.

“I put it to you that when Longwe came in there was an argument and commotion and he pulled out a firearm, that is when the deceased tussled with him, took the firearm away, handed it over to Kelly then Longwe ran out… Kelly wanted to pass on the gun to Meyiwa and it shot him at close range…”  

Madlala rejected this version of events.

To back his claims, Thobane said another witness would testify that Madlala called him to inform him of Meyiwa’s shooting. He said the player was shot by “mistake” and made no mention of a robbery.    

The court also heard how music producer “Chicco” Twala, the father of Twala, visited the same house just days after the incident and offered Khumalo a holiday.

The trial continues. DM

Journalists apologise

As the Gauteng High Court waited to hear for the first time the much anticipated testimony of Tumelo Madlala, who was present in the Vosloorus house when soccer star Senzo Meyiwa was shot and killed eight years ago, journalists ran towards him, seeking comment.

He politely declined while keeping his face from cameras. Some journalists made their way into the courtroom, but at least three from major media outlets chased him into the courtroom, forcing him to speak against his will.  

The journalists’ conduct  was condemned by Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela and state prosecutor George Baloyi. Maumela banned the journalists for the day, saying they had been well aware of the rules.

“The media has to toe the line and it has to toe a line it knows already; there’s nothing new here … and those misdemeanors are committed from a situation of knowing very well what the rules are.”

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) condemned the incident: “Sanef has always reiterated that journalists are not above the law and are also not beyond criticism. The journalists overstepped the line … we appreciate the apologies from the media houses involved. We also commend the journalists involved for apologising and recognising the error of their ways.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25. 

 

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