Drama as state witness’ partial media-blackout request brings Meyiwa trial to a halt

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There has been drama at the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial in Pretoria on Monday as the state submitted an application to have a partial blackout of the media during the state’s next, now-a-much-anticipated witness. According to the state, their next witness, who is believed to be one of the people who were in the house when Meyiwa was shot and killed, requested for “her” evidence not to be broadcast live both visuals and audio. 

Safety has been cited as the first ground for “her” demands.  

“My lord, the witness is a well-known personality. She has to perform in public from time to time. If these proceedings are carried out live, there’s a possibility the public amy form perceptions about her and her life may be in danger,” says state advocate, George Baloyi. 

“Secondly, if they are carried live, that could put her under pressure and make her uncomfortable. She is not prepared to give evidence if her evidence is carried live.” 

According to the state, the witness has no objections if the journalists sit in court and report on her testimony, although no recording of her testimony should be made. 

Baloyi says that she has a problem that her evidence will be compared with those of witnesses and that she could subjected to intense scrutiny, “…and on social media, that she may be subjected to ridicule and scorn, which would unsettle and hinder her to continue with the testimony. We submit that it is in the interest of justice that the witness is allowed to give evidence but subject to her request”. 

The defense counsels were unanimous in rejecting the application and calling for proceedings to continue as they have been without showing the witnesses’ faces but allowing live audio broadcast. 

Attorney for accused 1 and 2, Sipho Ramosepele dismissed “her” reasons as flimsy.  

Advocate Charles Mnisi has told the court that refusing the broadcast of “her” testimony would make life difficult for his client, accused 3,’s family who have been following the live broadcast of proceedings since they cannot be in court owing to financial constraints. 

“Accused 3 is telling me that he has a family who would have loved to be part of the proceedings here but because of financial constraints they can’t. Therefore, the application not to broadcast the live proceedings (audio) should be shut down. That people out there should be afforded the opportunity to follow the proceedings,” says Mnisi. 

“It also comes to my mind that the deceased has a family from KZN and the followers of Orlando Pirates would like to know what is happening every step of the way. The order that there should not be an audio, would infringe on their freedom of speech.” 

Mshololo has described the application as an embarrassment, saying it is a matter that should have been dealt with during pre-trial conferences. 

She has accused the witness of not being genuine in raising safety concerns, because she, on her own volution, admitted that she was a well-known person and that she had previously been posting herself on social media about the case. 

“I have been posted on Instagram by this very same witness. If we were to consider the personal safety of this witness isolation … what about the safety of other people including other people like myself by this witness. The court must consider her safety in respect of all other people,” says Mshololo.  

In 2020, Muzi Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube, Mthokoziseni Ziphozonke Maphisa, and Fisokuhle Ntuli were charged with Meyiwa’s murder, attempted murder of other witnesses, robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of ammunition. 

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

It is the state’s case that on the night of 26 October 2014, two intruders allegedly stormed into Kelly Khumalo’s mother, Gladness’ house in Vosloorus where Meyiwa, Madlala, Gladness, Kelly, Zandi Khumalo, Longwe Twala, and Mthokozisi Thwala were sitting in the lounge watching TV. The alleged first intruder, who was short, had a hat on, had dreadlocks, and armed with a gun, is said to have demanded cellphones and money. This was moments before he was pushed over by Longwe Twala as he (Longwe) ran out of the house just before a commotion ensued in the house in the presence of the second alleged intruder, before a shot that killed Meyiwa went off. 

The media is expected to be represented by Advocate Dan Rosengarten during the post-lunch proceedings. 

Senzo Meyiwa Murder Trial: New witnesses to be called | 15 May 2023: