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Deputy Judge President concerned about slow pace of Senzo Meyiwa murder trial

Deputy Judge President concerned about slow pace of Senzo Meyiwa murder trial
The accused Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Ncube, Mthokoziseni Ziphozonke Maphisa and Sifisokuhle Ntuli in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial stand in the dock on 17 July 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

As the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial drags on, defence lawyer representing one of the five men on trial for Meyiwa’s murder requested a day to consult and prepare for what’s set to be a trial within a trial over the admissibility of confessions.

The Deputy Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria, Aubrey Ledwaba, is concerned about the snail’s pace at which the Senzo Meyiwa trial is moving. This is despite the appointment of a new judge, Ratha Mokgoatlheng, and the subsequent restart of the trial three months ago.

This emerged during court proceedings on Wednesday, 11 October, as a defence lawyer representing one of the five men on trial for Meyiwa’s murder requested a day to consult and prepare for what’s set to be a trial within a trial over the admissibility of confessions. 

The two other defence lawyers indicated their preparedness to proceed with the trial. 

“The JP [Judge President] is worried about the pace this trial is taking. This trial is of the essence in the sense that it has paralysed the judge, the prosecutor and even sometimes counsels. There are cases that are waiting to be on the roll,” Mokgoatlheng said in the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria where the case is being heard.

On trial are Sifisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa. Charges include murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.   

Read more in Daily Maverick: Senzo Meyiwa murder trial: Crucial cellphone evidence expected  

They have been in custody since 2020 and all have pleaded not guilty.    

Confession 

This week, the state indicated it would present evidence that Sibiya had confessed to killing Meyiwa and pointed out the crime scene. This is contained in a statement in the state’s possession. There is another statement by Ntanzi, who also reportedly admitted to killing Meyiwa. 

Advocate Sipho Ramosepele, representing Ntanzi, has dismissed the legitimacy of the confession, saying his client was coerced into signing it. 

Now, the court has to hold a trial within a trial to assess the admissibility of the confessions. 

“The making of the statement needs to be clarified because he [Ntanzi] says a statement was brought to him. He was assaulted and coerced to sign that statement,” Ramosepele said. 

Mokgoatlheng agreed that the court would hear arguments and deliberate on the admissibility of the confessions.

“I am satisfied then that your client alleges that he didn’t make a confession, and the State alleges that he did make one. So you need a trial within a trial to enable the defence to contest the admissibility of that statement or confession,” Mokgoatlheng said.  

The matter is expected to be heard when the case resumes on Friday, 13 October.     

Meyiwa was fatally shot during an apparent botched robbery on 26 October 2014. 

At the time of the shooting, he was with his then girlfriend and musician Kelly Khumalo; her sister, Zandile Khumalo-Gumede; Khumalo-Gumede’s boyfriend, Longwe Twala; and two of Meyiwa’s friends, Mthokozisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala. They were at the home of Khumalo’s mother, who was also present.

DNA swabs 

On Tuesday, the court heard evidence that appeared to exonerate all the accused in testimony by a new state witness, Captain Mampshedi Masetla, who compared the DNA of the suspects to DNA samples found at the Khumalo home following the murder.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Startling twists in Senzo Meyiwa’s murder trial as no-nonsense former Orlando Pirates soccer player judge cracks the whip 

The most crucial DNA swabs taken on the day of the murder include those from a hat which, according to Zandie Khumalo’s testimony, was worn by one of two intruders who stormed inside and killed Meyiwa. 

Masetla, however, testified that all the accused were excluded from the DNA found on the hat, which means no direct match could be made. 

“What is important for us when we do the DNA comparison is to check whether the reference sample can be compared to the sample we received from the crime scene, basically by looking at the characters on the regions of the chromosome … The donors of the following reference samples were excluded as donors of the swabs and the hat.”  

Unpaid leave

Another state witness, Hendrik Louis Mulder, a human resource manager at Sibanye Gold, took to the stand to testify about Ntanzi’s employment history and his whereabouts on the night Meyiwa was killed.  

During his evidence-in-chief, he testified that Ntanzi had been on unpaid leave for “personal reasons” between 27 and 31 October 2014.  

The day prior to his leave had been a Sunday, and he was reportedly not due to work that day, his legal representative said. This, however, contradicts what Ntanzi said in his bail application last year. He claimed in his affidavit that he was at work at the Rustenburg mine on the night of the murder. 

On 25 October, the day before Meyiwa’s killing, Mulder’s records showed that Ntanzi did not complete his shift, clocking in at about 3.55am and clocking out at about 6.01am. This would mean he worked only two hours. 

The judge requested that Mulder furnish the court with Ntanzi’s payslip that shows the days he was not scheduled to work in October 2014.

More questions

Ntanzi’s bank records also took centre stage this week as they revealed no transactions had taken place from 25 to 28 October 2014. The accused had previously claimed that, during the commission of the crime, he was in KwaZulu-Natal where he took a loan from his bank in order to pay lobola for his girlfriend.  

His lawyer, Ramosepele, argued that bank information presented by the state was not complete as it did not reflect other transactions. 

Judge Mokgoatlheng said a relevant person from the bank could be subpoenaed to answer questions. 

Last week, the court heard evidence from police constable Sizwe Skhumbuzo Zungu, who implicated all the accused

He testified that on the day Meyiwa was killed, he had partied with the accused. He was introduced to them for the first time that day. He claimed they drank alcohol at Basothong Hostel in Vosloorus where his nephew, Gwabini Zungu, lived.

The accused at some point left the hostel and returned hours later, exchanging guns with Gwabini and appearing visibly nervous. 

The trial continues. DM

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