Senzo Meyiwa murder trial – witness raises more red flags around crime scene tampering

Senzo Meyiwa murder trial – witness raises more red flags around  crime scene tampering
Soccer star Senzo Meyiwa was killed in Vosloorus nine years ago. (Photo: EPA / Barry Aldworth) Deceased South Africa soccer team captain, Senzo Meyiwa during a club soccer match, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 09 March 2013. (Photo: EPA/Barry Aldworth)

Last week in court, the defence raised doubts about the accuracy of the police’s crime scene photographs.

A second state witness in the trial of five men accused of murdering football star Senzo Meyiwa has corroborated evidence suggesting that the scene at which he was killed eight years ago during an alleged botched robbery may have been tampered with. 

It first emerged during forensic investigator Thabo Mosia’s testimony in June that the crime scene was cleaned and tempered with before the police arrived. 

It also became evident that no blood tests had been done for anyone who was inside the house at the time of the murder, nor any assessment of their alcohol levels. Gunshot residue swabs were not done either.

These details emerged during resumption of cross-examination proceedings of a second witness, Tumelo Madlala, in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria last week. Madlala was a school friend of Meyiwa.

His testimony as the first direct witness at the scene was expected to shed light on the details of Meyiwa’s death, but it raised more questions than answers.

Read in Daily Maverick: “‘When a shot was fired, I ran to the bedroom’ — Senzo Meyiwa’s friend recalls how fatal shooting unfolded 

Those details and who pulled the trigger remain unknown. Gunshot residue swabs would have been a key part in determining whether the shots were fired by any of the people who were in the house.  

Meyiwa was allegedly shot in the chest during a robbery in Vosloorus, where he was with his girlfriend, Kelly Khumalo, her sister, Zandie, Zandie’s boyfriend, Longwe Twala, and two of Meyiwa’s friends, Mthokoszisi Thwala and Madlala. They were at Khumalo’s mother’s house, who was present, as were Khumalo’s two children, one of whom is Meyiwa’s child.

The accused in the matter are Fisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphis. The men are facing charges of murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, possession of firearms without a licence and possession of ammunition. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Senzo Meyiwa murder: Meet the 5 men on trial, and the lawyer who demands to know why Kelly Khumalo isn’t there too

Previously, Madlala, a childhood friend of Meyiwa, testified that the latter had been shot after they had enjoyed a meal together while watching a football match. He recalled how they saw two men, one with a gun, suddenly enter Khumalo’s home and demand their cellphones. 

He said they were met with resistance as the Khumalo family fought one man off and another fought with Meyiwa, after which a shot was fired.

This week, advocate Zandile Mshololo, who represents Ntuli, and Tshepo Thobane, who represents the other four accused, poked several holes in Madlala’s testimony, disputing his version of events and suggesting that no intruders were present on the fateful night. 

Netflix documentary money

Mshololo suggested that Madlala sought to benefit from Meyiwa’s death after failing to share the money he made from a Netflix documentary with Meyiwa’s family. 

She probed the rationale behind not sharing the money with Meyiwa’s wife, Mandisa, who had a toddler at the time: “I don’t think I was supposed to share the money with anyone because it was mine.” 

Mshololo described this as “shocking” from somebody who considered himself the footballer’s best friend. 

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela also asked if Madlala did not treat Meyiwa’s child, as his own as is done in the African culture.

Crime scene

Mshololo probed how many shots were fired on the day of the murder, to which Madlala replied: “I would be lying if I said I know how many shots were fired…”

Mshololo also wanted to know why he didn’t call the police after he had run and hidden in one of the bedrooms. “I didn’t think of calling the police, it didn’t occur to me, all I was thinking was that maybe I am dying,” said Madlala.

Throughout his testimony Madlala was adamant that he had seen accused number two, Ntanzi, carrying a gun on the fateful day. This despite Thobane maintaining that his client had been at his home, in KwaZulu-Natal, the entire week. To prove this, he had supplied police with statements of bank transactions he had done in that week. 

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela during the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

But Madlala maintained he was at the crime scene. “I don’t doubt that one. I can point to him even after 20 to 30 years.”

Read in Daily Maverick: “Who killed Senzo Meyiwa: As court case unfolds, docuseries reveals 8 years of inconsistent storytelling and inept policing

Mshololo argued that Madlala could not possibly identify any of the intruders because he was under the influence of alcohol. 

Images taken from the crime scene by police and presented in court as evidence show that only two cans of alcohol were found in the house, suggesting the crime scene could have been tampered with. 

“All of you inside had not consumed the two cans as depicted in the picture, is that correct?” asked Mshololo. “You had consumed more than that. The cans that are depicted there are not a true reflection of the cans you had consumed in the house.” 

Madlala responded that this was correct.

Mthobisi Mncube, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mthokoziseni Maphisa, and Fisokuhle Ntuli are accused of murdering Senzo Meyiwa. They appeared in the Gauteng High Court on November 16, 2022 in Pretoria.   (Photo by Gallo Images/OJ Koloti)

Elusive back-up

Madlala testified that at the time of the alleged robbery, Twala pushed one of the armed intruders and ran away. Mshololo questioned how this happened, and how the Khumalos fought one of the intruders saying it was impossible for an unarmed person to attack a gunman. 

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Twala never returned to the scene, when Madlala quizzed him on this, he said he had gone to get back-up. Mshololo questioned if there was ever a back-up present to which Madlala answered “no”. Thobane disputed this version and argued that it was in fact Twala who pulled the trigger and fled the scene.  

Rot in jail

Twala is the son of music mogul Chicco Twala, who recently visited Meyiwa’s mother. 

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, about his visit and his son’s  involvement in the case, he said he should “rot in jail” if found guilty. 

“My son’s enemies cannot be my enemy and if my son wrongs people, he must suffer the consequences… If my son is implicated and is responsible for Senzo’s death he must go and rot in jail,” Chicco said.

His son has consistently denied any role in the murder.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, 16 November, members of the media were evicted from the courtroom after Madlala’s face (he is a protected witness)  was “accidentally” shown during a live streaming of the court proceedings. This angered Maumela, who told all media to leave the courtroom.

Following the error, screenshots of Madlala’s face were widely circulated on social media. The error was attributed to the SABC since it supplies all the broadcasters with a pool feed.

Maumela previously ruled that Madlala’s face must not be shown as he fears for his safety.

It later emerged that the image being circulated could have been  manipulated.

“A possibility has been mentioned that perhaps it is some manipulation or photoshopping,” said the prosecutor, advocate George Baloyi. 

The media was allowed back into the courtroom the following day.

In September, the SABC, eNCA and Newzroom Afrika were kicked out of the proceedings after chasing Madlala, a move Maumela described as reprehensible. He forced the reporters to apologise for their behaviour. The move was also condemned by the South African National Editors’ Forum. DM168

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


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