The High Court in Pretoria has postponed the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial to next year, a day earlier than expected following a request for the matter to be stood down by defence Advocate Thulani Mngomezulu on grounds of ill health.
The trial was expected to sit until Friday before the long postponement, however, Mngomezulu told the court that he was not feeling well and needed to consult a doctor.
“We have discussed this with my colleagues and I have indicated to them that I am not feeling well and I need to consult with a doctor,” says Mngomezulu.
As proceedings resumed this morning, Mngomezulu revisited the issue of the warrant of arrest for accused 1, Muzi Sibiya, to the objection of the state. This as Mngomezulu continued with the cross-examination of the lead investigator in the case, Brigadier Bongani Gininda.
“We’ve allowed counsel to traverse this issue since yesterday. At the moment we are in the trial within a trial (about the admissibility of confession statements). My learned friend is busy with issues that belong in the main trial. The issues may be intertwined but we’d appreciate it if he could confine himself to issues of the trial within a trial,” says Advocate George Baloyi.
Before the long adjournment, Mngomezulu was also given time to sort out his papers for cross-examination after he referred Gininda to something that did not appear on the document he had handed over to the witness.
Mngomezulu sought to demonstrate to Gininda that Sibiya’s warrant for arrest for the Meyiwa murder, which was issued on the 23rd of October, did not reflect the accused’s address, while the warrant of arrest against the same accused for a drug-related matter, depicted a Tembisa address.
But this seemed not to be the case.
“I am not sure what the counsel is talking about because the document that I have says address unknown,” responded Gininda.
It has been the defence’s assertion that the police had acted with an ulterior motive when they arrested Sibiya on the 30th of May 2020 in a drug-related matter, while they were investigating him in relation to the Meyiwa murder case.
Sibiya allegedly confessed in relation to the Meyiwa murder a couple of hours following his arrest and was booked out for further investigations to point out a traditional healer in Palm Ridge the following, and was also booked out on number of times again in relation to the probe into the death of the former soccer star.
The defence took issue with that.
“My lord, there’s no law that says once a person has been arrested cannot be taken out of the cells for further investigations and should only be kept in the cells he appears in court,” says Gininda.
As Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng acceded to Mngomezulu’s request for a postponement, he revisited the counsel’s accusations of interference against him on Thursday, quipping, “You see, yesterday I was not interfering. You were not feeling well. You don’t have to answer.”
Tempers flared in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial yesterday afternoon as Mngomezulu accused Mokgoatlheng of interfering with his cross-examination of the witness.
In an apparent stand-off between Mngomezulu and Mokgoatlheng, sounding apparently peeved the defence advocate requested matters to be stood down, but the judge, seemingly calm throughout the impasse, would not give in.
“My lord, must I still proceed with the cross-examination?,” asked Mngomezulu angrily.
This when Mngomezulu put it to the lead investigator in the Senzo Meyiwa murder case, Brigadier Bongani Gininda, that his client, Muzi Sibiya, was formally charged in relation to Meyiwa’s murder in August 2020, but was only served with a notice of his rights (SAP14 A) in relation to that arrest almost two months later, a day before his 27 October 2020 court appearance.
Gininda denied this saying Sibiya was formally charged in relation to Meyiwa’s murder on the 26th of October 2020 and on the same day, he was served with a notice of his rights before making his first appearance at the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court the following day.
The head of the National Cold Case unit, who says the Meyiwa murder case was assigned to him by the then National Police Commissioner Khehla Sithole in 2018, told the court that copies of the warrant of arrest, the notice of rights as well as the charge sheet were contained in the docket which the defence had since the start of the trial.
Battle lines drawn…
The judge referred to a charge sheet, which he argued corroborated the witness’s evidence, and from there, the gloves were off.
Judge: I have a charge sheet here that says Exhibit EE, date of first appearance 27/10/2020. Accused 1 is Sibiya, number 2 Ntanzi, number 3 Mncube, number 4 Maphisa and number 5 is Ntuli. Is this what you are referring to, sir?
Gininda: That’s what I am referring to.
Judge: Yeah, let’s show some people here because it appears I know the case better than some people here. Just show counsel also there because according to this witness, that tallies with what this witness is saying, not that there was an appearance in August.
Mngomezulu: My lord…
Judge: No, no, we are not arguing. Wait, wait, Mr Mngomezulu. Let them show you that document and show the others because that is what this witness is saying.
Mngomezulu’s ire was gradually rising.
Mngomezulu: My lord, must I still proceed with cross-examination?
Judge: Yes, yes.
Mngomezulu: But now if the court keeps interjecting?
Judge: No, I’m not interjecting.
Mngomezulu: (Voice raised) I am still coming to the issue of the charge sheet, my lord. I just want to clarify this because now the court wants to … eish (banging on his chest). The reason why I am dwelling on this aspect. This is the first time to hear about the J50 (warrant of arrest). I need to thoroughly consult with accused 1 and number 2, to my satisfaction, so that I can proceed to cross-examine the witness, especially on the charge sheet. There are certain parts in the docket where accused 1 has just indicated to me that he wants to be shown the part where his thumbprint was placed on the docket.
No end in sight…
With no sight to the end of the deadlock, Judge Mokgoatlheng accused the counsel of badgering the witness on the issue, saying that, subsequently, called for him to interject with the charge sheet, denying he was interfering with the counsel’s cross-examination.
Mngomezulu’s attempt to put an end to it all with a request for an adjournment came a cropper, too.
Mngomezulu: My lord, I will request an adjournment, because if the court is disturbing my cross-examination, you are taking me out of the line.
Judge: No, I can’t.
Mngomezulu: May I stand the matter down until tomorrow?
The judge has argued the court was entitled to offer clarity when there was confusion between the counsel and the witness and there was a document handed to assist.
Unyielding, Mngomezulu posited that he had not gone through the document, unbeknown to him that he was inviting more attacks from the judge, who came close to accusing him of being ill-prepared despite being in possession of the entire docket.
“The defence never read the copies. That’s what Mr Mngomezulu says. He never read the copies,” charged the judge. “He (Gininda) says the copies were furnished to the defense and I am saying the defense never read the copies because you are saying you want to familiarise yourself with the copies.”
The big lecture
But Mokgoathleng was not done yet, giving Mngomezulu a lecture on how the defense should prepare.
“Before counsel stands up and examines a witness like this, counsel has prepared, he has read the papers, he has read the charge sheet, he has read everything. That’s how I know it is being done. You read everything so that when you cross-examine this witness, you are informed of the case you want to present to him and you are informed of the state’s case. But you, Mr Mngomezulu, you stand up and say you haven’t read these documents and this witness tells you what he has done and now, we are talking at cross-purposes.”
In his defence, Mngomezulu says he only joined the trial at the stage of the trial within a trial about the admissibility of confession statements by accused 1 and 2, pointings out by accused 2 as well as warning statements by the three other accused.