As the trial of the five men charged with the murder of Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana soccer star Senzo Meyiwa returns back to court on Friday, the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) lead prosecutor Advocate George Baloyi has urged all role players to ensure the matter get underway in the interest of justice for the Meyiwa family and the public.
This comes after the trial was scheduled to start on Monday 11 April, but could not proceed due to a number of requests for postponement by Advocate Zandile Mshololo for accused number five, Sifisokuhle Ntuli.
She asked Judge Tshifhwiwa Maumela for a postponement to consult with her client and with witnesses.
Muzikawukhulelwa Sthemba Sibiya, 34, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, 30, Mthobisi Prince Ncube, 36, and Mthokoziseni Ziphozonke Maphisa, 35, are expected back in the Pretoria High Court on Friday.
All the accused are expected to plead not guilty.
The matter was initially enrolled under the Gauteng Local Division in 27 October 2020 at the Boksburg Magistrates’ Court.
However, a decision was taken by the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Advocate Shamila Batohi and her management to transfer the matter to Gauteng Division: Pretoria, in order to countenance any perceptions that could be attributed to the State if the matter remained in its original jurisdiction.
The matter has faced a number challenges.
During the pre-trial conference on 25 October 2021, the state committed to providing the defence with statements of witnesses who were omitted from the lists, for safety reasons, a few weeks before the start of the trial.
These witnesses would have been placed in the Witness Protection Programme.
The statements were sent via e-mail to the defence attorneys on 28 March 2022 and hard copies were hand delivered by the lead prosecutor to the defence attorneys in Durban on 30 March 2022, as agreed during pre-trial conference.
When the trial was supposed to start on 17 March 2022, accused 1-4 appointed a new legal representative, Advocate Teffo to represent them.
Judge Bam warned Advocate Teffo that he would not allow any further postponements, therefore he needed to ensure that he was ready to proceed with the trial on 11 April 2022.
However, during the court appearance on 11 April 2022, Advocate Mshololo, a legal representative for accused number 5 asked for a one-day remand because she needed to consult with her client with regards to the statement received on 28 March 2022 because of challenges faced at the correctional facility.
Judge Maumela granted the defence the remand and arranged that they be allowed to consult with the accused at prison cells in court before they are taken back to their correctional centres.
A request for a further five-day postponement by the defence was lodged the following day, to consult further with her client and to interview the state witness.
Advocate Msholo further accused the state of giving her the statements late, however the judge affirmed the state’s approach, acknowledging that should the statement have been handed earlier, the lives of the witnesses would have been at risk.
The state needed to withhold the statements to protect the lives of the witnesses.
NPA spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said the state has always maintained its position that it has always been ready to proceed with the trial.
“We understand that justice delayed is justice denied. As the NPA we are doing everything in our power to ensure that this matter is finalised. We too hope that there will be no further postponements. We understand the frustrations of the family and their need for closure, which can only be achieved when justice is served.”
Meyiwa was shot dead while visiting the home of his then-girlfriend singer Kelly Khumalo in Vosloorus in October 2014.
He was one of seven people in the home when gunmen allegedly entered the house and tried to rob everyone.
Meyiwa was the only person who was shot in the incident.