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Senzo Meyiwa murder trial reboots – with Ratha Mokgoatlheng presiding 

Senzo Meyiwa murder trial reboots  – with Ratha Mokgoatlheng presiding 
Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng reacts during the Senzo Mayiwa murder trial at Pretoria high court on 17 July, 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. It is reported that Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng took over from Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela after he was suspended following allegations he failed to deliver judgments within allocated time frames. (Photo: Gallo Images/Phill Magakoe)

The trial work and testimony done over the past 15 months in bringing Senzo Meyiwa’s alleged killers to justice will now be overlooked. The footballer was gunned down almost nine years ago.

Five men who have been incarcerated in connection with the murder of slain Bafana Bafana football star Senzo Meyiwa for nearly three years, are now eligible for bail as the trial is expected to officially start afresh on Tuesday, 18 July 2023.       

This means that work done in the trial for the past 15 months will go down the drain and the five state witnesses who had taken the stand will have to be recalled. 

The accused men are: Fisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa. They were arrested in October 2020 and charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, possession of firearms without a licence and the possession of ammunition.      

Senzo Meyiwa

Five accused in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial stand in the dock at Pretoria high court on 17 July, 2023: Muzikawukhulelwa Sthemba Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Ncube, Mthokoziseni Ziphozonke Maphisa and Sifisokuhle Ntuli, (Photo: Gallo Images/Phill Magakoe)

Ntanzi had previously made a bail application in the Johannesburg high court which was denied on the basis that he failed to prove that exceptional circumstances exist which, in the interest of justice, permit his release.

Meyiwa was gunned down in October 2014 in what the State believes was a botched robbery and the defence has disputed the presence of any intruders at all.

On Monday, when the trial was due to resume with the testimony of witness number 5, it emerged that a new retired judge, Ratha Mokgoatlheng had been appointed to proceed with the matter, which effectively means the trial starts afresh, as previously reported by Daily Maverick.      

Read more in Daily Maverick: Appointment of new judge in Senzo Meyiwa murder trial welcomed by family but threat of retrial looms 

On Monday at midday, Mokgoatlheng postponed the trial to Tuesday to allow the remainder of the day for the legal teams to hold a pre-trial conference. He rejected proposals to have the pre-trial conference held tomorrow in the interest of time.   

Mokgoatlheng informed the five accused of their rights including that they would be eligible for bail and that he would make an order for the Legal Aid officials to come to court and sort out certain issues. These could include the state funding the defence of the five accused men. 

The reboot of the trial was necessitated by the previous judge, Tshifhiwa Maumela’s ill health in the midst of the prior trial.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Senzo Meyiwa’s family distraught after postponement of murder trial due to judge’s ill health 

Gauteng Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba told the court at that time that Maumela was unlikely to return to court anytime soon. 

Senzo Meyiwa murder trial

The five men — Mthobisi Mncube, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mthokoziseni Maphisa, and Fisokuhle Ntuli – accused of the murder of Senzo Meyiwa, appear in the Gauteng high court on 16 November, 2022 in Pretoria, South Africa. The Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper was shot and killed in October 2014 at the Vosloorus home of the mother of Kelly Khumalo, who was his girlfriend at the time. (Photo: Gallo Images/OJ Koloti)

“The reason why I am appearing is because my colleague Judge Maumela is not available due to ill health and may not be available for a long time, subject to what his doctors may say. 

“However, because of the importance of this matter and the publicity it is getting from the media, we have made arrangements that this matter should proceed in the third term so it can be finalised as soon as possible,” Ledwaba said. 

At the time of the news of Maumela’s ill health, he had been suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in line with Section 177(3) of the Constitution, which empowers the President to suspend a judge on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.    

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa suspends Senzo Meyiwa murder trial judge over alleged excessive judgment delays

The President said the suspension was to allow the Judicial Conduct Tribunal to investigate suspected misconduct regarding alleged excessive delays by judges in handing down a significant number of judgments.     

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela, Senzo Meyiwa

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela in the Pretoria high court during the murder trial of Senzo Meyiwa, on 12 July 2022, Pretoria. (Photo: Supplied)

Daily Maverick previously reported that in terms of judicial norms and standards, which were gazetted in 2014, judgments in both civil and criminal matters should generally not be reserved without a fixed date for being handed down. Saving for exceptional cases where it is not possible to do so, every effort must be made to hand down judgments no later than three months after the last hearing.  

Complaints against Maumela involved 12 judgments which had been outstanding from 24 to 26 months. 

At the last court appearance, Meyiwa’s sister, Nomalanga broke down in tears as she was visibly distraught following the announcement of Maumela’s ill health and the possibility of a new judge taking over the matter.   

It expressed a lack of trust in the country’s justice system. 

“What did Senzo do for him not to get justice 10 years later?”  

“I don’t know if the people in the process of this trial even think Senzo has a mother who gets heartbroken each time there is a postponement,” said Nomalanga.  

However, the family who was not present in court on Monday, has since welcomed Mokgoatlheng’s appointment. Meyiwa’s brother, Sifiso, said: “We are confident that justice will be served because this new judge is credible, he doesn’t take nonsense. We trust him.”  

Mokgoatlheng has high-profile trials under his belt, including the imprisonment of the once-powerful head of Crime Intelligence, Richard Mdluli for kidnapping, assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, to his customary wife and her partner.  Mokgoatlheng also slapped the killer of heavily pregnant Soweto woman, Tshegofatso Pule, with a 20-year jail term.   

The Pretoria high court had heard from five state witnesses on what transpired on the fateful day in 2014. None of them answered the most pressing question: who killed Meyiwa? Was he killed in a robbery gone wrong or was it a cold-blooded murder? 

The trial continues on Tuesday. DM


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