IN THE DOCK
Bail denied to Bongani Ntanzi in Senzo Meyiwa murder trial
Ntanzi is one of the accused in the murder trial of Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa who was gunned down during an apparent botched robbery in Vosloorus on October 26 2014.
On Friday Judge Audrey Ledwaba dismissed murder-accused Bongani Ntanzi’s bail application in the Johannesburg high court, stating the accused had failed to prove that exceptional circumstances exist which, in the interest of justice permit his release.
Reading out his judgment, Ledwaba further underlined that the accused had not clarified in his affidavit why, after his arrest in June 2022, he was only bringing his bail application now after the State had called three witnesses.
Meyiwa was gunned down during an apparent botched robbery in Vosloorus eight years ago. At the time, the soccer star was with his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo in her home, along with her sister Zandie, Zandie’s boyfriend Longwe Twala and two of Meyiwa’s friends, Mthokoszisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala.
South African football fans were devastated at the news of the Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana captain’s death.
In October 2020, Fisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa were arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, possession of firearms without a license and possession of ammunition. All have pleaded not guilty.
Ntanzi, together with the other accused, appeared in the high court for the first time on 11 April 2022 before Judge Tshifhiwa Maulemelo for trial. On the day, it was reported that advocate Dan Teffo, who was representing Sibiya and Ntanzi, let slip that his clients had confessed to killing Meyiwa. Presiding Judge Tshifiwa Maumela shut Teffo down and said the court was not yet ready for that testimony.
Ntanzi is charged with at least two Schedule 6 offences, namely murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances. Hence the onus rests on Ntanzi in terms of section 60 (11)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) to show on the balance of probabilities that exceptional circumstances exist which in the interest of justice justify his release on bail.
The accused stated in his affidavit that he has been in detention since June 2020, that he was not apprehended at the site of the crime, and that his trial would take a long time because the State has a list of over a hundred witnesses.
The State opposing his bail application contended;
- The State has a strong case against the accused, that there is a likelihood of a conviction and if convicted he could be sentenced to life imprisonment — this may cause him to abscond and evade his trial.
- The accused’s address in Kwanongoma has not been verified and it would be difficult to trace the applicant in that area.
- There is a likelihood that the accused may influence or intimidate witnesses.
- The accused may undermine or jeopardise the objectives and proper functioning of the criminal system because he has been untruthful.
- The accused lied about his alibi defence.
A contentious point amplified by Ledwaba is the issue around alleged confessions made by Ntanzi. Ledwaba said that on 19 June 2020 Ntanzi had allegedly made a confession freely to a police officer. In the presence of his attorney on 24 June 2020 Ntanzi is said to have made a further detailed confession to a Magistrate in Boksburg.
“The accused further states in his affidavit that he was assaulted by the police, the injuries he sustained caused him to bleed and he was forced to make a confession. He said the police wanted him to sign the papers which were full of blood and he refused to sign.
“I assume the accused’s version is that the police wanted him to sign a confession which had bloodstains because of the assault by the police. The investigation officer in his affidavit states the applicant made two confessions.”
But the investigation officer did not attach the two confessions that the State alleges Ntanzi had signed in order to determine whether the signatures were genuine. The documents, Ledwaba added, would show if they were bloodstained or not.
“In my view, the accused should have foreseen that there would be material disputes of facts and should have led oral evidence which could be tested under cross-examination or he should have made a detailed and clear affidavit corroborated or supported by other facts to strengthen his application.
“Having considered the evidence before me I’m satisfied that the applicant has not discharged the onus to prove exceptional circumstances exist and that it would be in the interest of justice to grant bail. Hence his application for bail has been dismissed,” Ledwaba’s judgment reads.
This trial has been marred by controversy.
- In April 2022 forensic detective Sergeant Johannes Thabo Mosia, called as the state’s first witness in this murder case, said he was not aware that the DNA found on a hat collected as evidence was that of a woman, not a man.
- Mosia has been on the witness stand for three weeks in the Meyiwa murder trial and told the Pretoria high court that he did not take gunshot residue tests from the people who were in the house when Meyiwa was murdered; he did not take DNA samples from the handle of the door that the robbers allegedly used to enter the house; he did not trace a phone that was allegedly stolen; and allowed the people who were present when the murder occurred to stay in the house.
- Ntanzi’s legal representative advocate Dan Teffo was struck off the roll of legal practitioners and ordered to return his certificate of enrolment as a legal practitioner to the Registrar of the Court.
In the latest saga, the Judicial Service Commision (JSC) has recommended the suspension of Judges Tshifiwa Maumela and Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi, pending a Judicial Conduct Tribunal into allegations of gross judicial misconduct.
Ntanzi will join his co-accused when the trial resumes on 2 May, 2023. DM