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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Goalpost to gavel: Meet Senzo Meyiwa trial’s new judge, Ratha Mokgoatlheng

The new judge presiding over the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial played for Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs during the golden era of SA soccer.

In what has become a case of justice delayed for Senzo Meyiwa after dragging on for nine years, the high-profile murder trial of the soccer sensation restarted from scratch on Tuesday, 18 July, at the Gauteng High Court, in Pretoria.

The new presiding judge is none other than legendary soccer great Ratha “Jimmy Greaves” Mokgoatlheng who was one of the founding members of Kaizer Chiefs alongside Kaizer “Chincha Guluva” Motaung and Edward “Msomi” Khoza.

ALSO READ: Kaizer Chiefs preparations for new season in full swing

Kaizer Chiefs was officially established in January 1970. Ratha Mokgoatlheng is on the far right in the bottom row… with his trademark spectacles. Photo: kaizerchiefs.com

Soccer star judge: Senzo Meyiwa smiling in football heaven?

This latest twist of events has most probably put a smile on the face of former Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Meyiwa looking down from football heaven…

Mokgoatlheng scored what soccer giant Ace Ntsoelengoe later called a “never-see” goal for Pirates in 1968 against Randfontein club Young Zebras.

ALSO READ: Why new Pirates signing Maswanganyi almost quit playing football

Mokgoatlheng replaces Maumela in Senzo trial

Mokgoatlheng has taken over from High Court Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela, who has been suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa for failing to deliver reserved judgments within allocated time frames.

senzo-meyiwa maumela soccer judge mokgoatlheng
The late Senzo Meyiwa (L) and Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela (R), who has been suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photos: Jacques Nelles and Steve Haag/Gallo Images

As the trial started anew this week, the five men accused of the murder of Meyiwa maintained their innocence with Mokgoatlheng granting them the right to reapply for bail.

Meyiwa was gunned down on 26 October 2014, in what has been described as a botched robbery at the Vosloorus home of his then-girlfriend and singer Kelly Khumalo‘s mother, Ntombi.

Kelly’s sister Zandile Khumalo-Gumede, Zandile’s boyfriend Longwe Twala and Senzo’s friends; Mthokozisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala, were present watching an “English soccer game” when the intruders allegedly entered the house.

This according to Khumalo-Gumede’s testimony which was heard on Tuesday.

Read The Citizen reporter Molefe Seeletsa’s Senzo Meyiwa murder trial: Zandile Khumalo identifies accused as intruder and ‘Senzo Meyiwa’s body was getting cold’: Teary Zandile Khumalo tells court for an update on what transpired in court today, 19 July as Zandile Khumalo-Gumede continued her witness testimony.

Fast facts and flowing football days of Judge Ratha Motgoatlheng

  • The soccer star judge was born in Alexandra Township before his family was forcibly removed to Diepkloof, in Soweto, where he attended Madibane High.
  • At the age of 20, he kicked off his soccer career at Orlando Pirates, but was expelled in 1969 alongside Edward “Msomi” Khoza and Thomas “Zero My Hero” Johnson after they defied team management orders to not play in a match for a local club in Gaborone… which they did.
  • The timing was perfect as their expulsion from the Buccaneers just happened to coincide with the return of Motaung from the United States after his stint with Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League (NASL).
  • City Press reports that Mokgoatlheng went on to co-found Kaizer Chiefs (following on 1969’s Kaizer XI invitational team) with Motaung and Khoza in 1970.
  • In his football days, the high court judge was nicknamed “Jimmy Greaves” after the late and great England striker.
  • He was renowned for playing football while wearing his spectacles. Up until today, he is the only soccer player to have sported specs on the pitch apart from Edgar Davids. The former Dutch player started wearing protective glasses in 1999 following surgery in his right eye.
  • Mokgoatlheng told City Press he took up law partly because of his admiration for former lawyers such as Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, as well as per his father’s insistence that his son should become a man of the law.
  • While he was studying law at the University of Fort Hare, he would still be “imported” whenever Chiefs played important matches.
  • In his City Press interview, the soccer star judge said he rates Steve “Kalamazoo” Mokone as South Africa’s greatest player, saying: “He was the best in black and white. He came during the height of apartheid and he conquered Italy and Holland”.
  • When Mokgoatlheng was admitted as an attorney in 1976, he still continued to play for the Amakhosi. He also served on its legal team and as club director.
  • In 2007, he was appointed as a full-time judge on the bench and was privileged enough to spread his legal eagle wings through the mentorship of former chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and his deputy and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
  • The sensational Jeppestown massacre trial was one of his first major cases. Four police officers and eight suspected robbers were killed during a five-hour gun battle at a house in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, on 25 June 2006. Mokgoatlheng sentenced the 11 accused to a life behind bars.
  • The high court judge also jailed former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli for the kidnapping of his customary wife and granted bail to Bosasa whistle-blower Angelo Agrizzi in 2020.
  • Each time he convicts a criminal to a prison term, he says: Come back a better person”.

NOW READ: What to expect when the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial restarts on Tuesday

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