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Senzo Meyiwa murder trial postponed to May 2023 after two accused sack their lawyer

Senzo Meyiwa murder trial postponed to May 2023 after two accused sack their lawyer
The accused in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial - Fisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa - appear in court on 16 November 2022 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

Two of the five men on trial for soccer star Senzo Meyiwa’s murder threw a spanner in the works on Monday, sacking their attorney and appointing another hours before a key witness was due to take the stand and give their account of Meyiwa’s death.

A third key state witness in the murder trial of Senzo Meyiwa could not take the stand on Monday, as two of the five accused changed their legal representation at the eleventh hour.  

The witness – whose identity has not been revealed – will now only be able to give their testimony in May 2023 after the court postponed the matter yet again. This time, the postponement is to allow Advocate Sipho Ramosepele to familiarise himself with the contents of the docket.   

Meyiwa was gunned down during an apparent botched robbery in Vosloorus eight years ago. At the time, he was with his girlfriend, Kelly Khumalo, her sister, Zandie, Zandie’s boyfriend, Longwe Twala, and two of Meyiwa’s friends, Mthokoszisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala.

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

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

Sibiya and Ntanzi will now be represented by Ramosepele, while Ntuli will continue to be represented by Zandile Mshololo and the other two accused by Thobane.  

On Monday, presiding judge Tshifhiwa Maumela was informed by Ramosepele that he was hired at the weekend to represent the duo.     

Thobane learnt he had been sacked as Sibiya and Ntanzi’s legal representative at the start of the proceedings. Ntanzi told the judge it was not personal, but that certain issues had emerged during proceedings and that he preferred a new attorney to take over.   

Thobane responded: “There are no bad feelings … If a client feels that they want another legal representative, it is not a problem … we are professionals.”

Judge Maumela asked the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) if it had been informed of this development in the matter.  

Advocate Timothy Tshepo Thobane at the Pretoria High Court on 9 September 2022 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Ready to proceed with trial 

State prosecutor Advocate George Baloyi said they were informed of the new developments only minutes before the hearing commenced. The trial was scheduled to run this week and the next. 

Baloyi said the state was ready to proceed and the witness it intended to call was present in court. 

“But in light of the circumstances, we are not going to object to the request [for a postponement]. 

“My lord, these are matters beyond our control … Mr R needs time to acquaint himself with the record of the proceedings as well as the contents of the case docket. Mr Thobane has also indicated that he needs time to discuss these new developments with the accused,” said Baloyi.  

After a long adjournment, all the parties agreed to stand down the matter to 2 to 26 May and again to 5 to 15 June 2023, after failing to find earlier dates. 

The case has been marred by delays – something the judge previously lamented. In April, controversial advocate Teffo Malasela, who represented all the accused apart from Ntuli, was arrested during proceedings. He later withdrew as their counsel, then tried unsucessfully to return. Malasela has since been struck off the roll


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Further postponement 

On Monday, Maumela once again raised concerns about the latest request for a postponement.

“It had already become a common attitude among all of us to use time economically to avoid an overly protracted trial…”  

Ramosepele responded that he was “very cognisant of that fact”, but “I am not in possession of disclosure and the record of transcripts of what else transpired thus far…”  

After weeks of testifying, Tumelo Madlala, the second state witness, wrapped up his cross-examination last Friday. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Senzo Meyiwa murder trial – witness raises more red flags around crime scene tampering”   

In his testimony, Madlala detailed events leading up to Meyiwa’s shooting, including that two intruders, one armed, entered the Khumalo home where they demanded cellphones but were met with resistance. 

His version was, however, dismissed by defence lawyers Mshololo and Thobane, who said an argument had ensued and that a shot was fired by Longwe Twala, who was present at the scene but later fled.   

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 alleged involvement in the case, he said Longwe 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. 

Early in his testimony, Madlala said he could not identify the two intruders who stormed into the house and later shot Meyiwa. In September, however, he broke down in the dock, saying he could point out only one of the intruders. 

Last week, he stood by his story, saying that he recognised one of the accused, saying, “I don’t doubt that one. I can point to him even after 20 to 30 years.”

Evidence tampered with 

Prior to Madlala’s testimony, the court heard from forensic expert, police sergeant Thabo Mosia, who was among the first law enforcement officials to arrive at the scene on 26 October 2014. 

Mosia’s testimony suggested that evidence at the crime scene was tampered with, as it had reportedly been cleaned by neighbours. 

He also revealed that he did not take gunshot residue tests from the people who were in the house when Meyiwa was murdered, or DNA samples from the handle of the door that the robbers allegedly used to enter the house. He also did not trace the phone that was allegedly stolen, and he allowed the people who were present when the murder occurred to stay in the house. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Senzo Meyiwa murder: Is this a case of police incompetence? Experts weigh in” 

During cross-examination by Mshololo on Thursday, Madlala corroborated claims made by Mosia around the evidence being tampered with. He confirmed that images of alcoholic drinks taken from the crime scene by police and presented in court as evidence were not a true reflection of what they had consumed as a group. DM

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