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Witness to Senzo Meyiwa murder accused of fabricating his testimony

Witness to Senzo Meyiwa murder accused of fabricating his testimony
From left: Mthobisi Prince Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphisa, Sifisokuhle Nkani Ntuli, three of the accused during the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial at the Pretoria High Court on 4 May 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

The defence in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial is not buying the testimony of a second witness who was at the house on the evening the crime took place almost nine years ago.

Two witnesses who were at the home of singer Kelly Khumalo when star footballer Senzo Meyiwa was fatally shot have given contradicting evidence about the events leading up to his death in October 2014.

Meyiwa was shot in what the State believes was a botched robbery and what the defence argues was a cold-blooded murder. At the time of the shooting, Meyiwa was in the presence of his girlfriend, Khumalo; her mother, Ntombi; her sister Zandie; Zandie’s boyfriend, Longwe Twala; and two of Meyiwa’s childhood friends, Mthokozisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala.

Thwala this week faced intense cross-examination by advocates Sipho Ramosepele, Charles Mnisi and Zithulele Nxumalo when he testified at the Pretoria High Court.

The court has ruled that no photos of Thwala’s face can be published during the course of his testimony. This was also the case with Madlala, who testified before Thwala.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Warning issued over delays in Senzo Meyiwa murder trial – ‘Memories fade and witnesses forget’

The defence advocates poked holes in Thwala’s testimony. Mnisi indicated that Khumalo’s sister Zandie would take the stand and give a different version of events than that of Meyiwa’s childhood friends Madlala and Thwala.

Thwala testified that two intruders, one armed with a gun and another with a sharp object, entered Khumalo’s home in Vosloorus and demanded cellphones and money.

Thwala said he was able to take Khumalo’s son to safety in a bedroom and later fled while Meyiwa was involved in a scuffle with the gun-wielding intruder, while others tried to fight the second intruder.

‘No way we would have seen the same thing’

After Mnisi’s questions on this, Thwala appeared to have a change of heart, saying that the second intruder may have joined the scuffle with Meyiwa.

The previous witness, Madlala, had maintained that Meyiwa was involved in a scuffle with one man. Probed on this, Thwala responded, “Indeed there was panic, everyone was shocked, there is no way we would have seen the same thing.”

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

Mnisi told Thwala: “I am going to put it to you that you’ve come here to fabricate evidence to suit a particular narrative on the circumstances in which the deceased was killed in the house. Little did you know that narrative would ultimately not stand the test of time.”

Ramosepele then cross-examined Thwala and raised the question of whether one gunshot or two were fired. Thwala said: “I might have heard a second gunshot, I can’t be sure because the first one really freaked me out.”

During the course of the cross-examination, Thwala evaded answering some questions, particularly those that related to statements provided to police by other eyewitnesses. He was unable to describe the gun and sharp object the intruders had.

Ramosepele put it to him: “In certain matters, you are confident as a matter of fact, but on uncomfortable matters, you develop amnesia.”

Neighbour’s statement of events 

When it was Nxumalo’s turn to cross-examine Thwala, he read out a statement by a neighbour that on the night of the murder, he heard a gunshot fired inside the Khumalo household. When he peeped through a window another shot went off, with nobody leaving the house.

Nxumalo said it was surprising that Thwala fled the house after a gunshot had been fired, leaving his best friend Meyiwa behind, and then he was not seen by the neighbour.

Nxumalo concluded his cross-examination by saying that Thwala’s testimony had been “invented” using Madlala’s testimony.

Last Friday, Thwala confirmed that he had been following the testimony of the previous witnesses through the media.

Suspects in custody

The five men on trial are Fisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa. They face charges of murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, possession of firearms without a licence and possession of ammunition. They have pleaded not guilty.

The five accused have been in custody since 26 October 2020, and the trial began on 25 April 2022. It has been prolonged by several delays for reasons including some of the accused changing their legal representation. The case had to be adjourned twice in the past week after defence lawyer Ramosepele fell ill, and after an interpreter failed to report for duty.

Recess

The trial is expected to be delayed further when the court goes on a long recess next month, with the future of the presiding judge, Tshifhiwa Maumela, hanging in the balance. He faces serious complaints relating to his failure to deliver judgments within a reasonable period.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) said if it was established the complaints were accurate, they would indicate incapacity, gross incompetence or gross misconduct. The commission advised President Cyril Ramaphosa to place Judge Maumela on suspension.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Senzo Meyiwa murder trial resumes with a cloud hanging over presiding judge 

Commenting on the delays in the matter, legal expert  Mannie Witz said the judge was likely to push for the trial to wrap up as soon as possible.  

“I am sure now that he is under the spotlight, he will want to try and finish as soon as possible so that he can get his own life in order. They will try and work through to try and make up for lost time.”

The trial continues. DM

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