Most people came to know about Malesela Daniel Teffo as the defence advocate representing four suspects accused of murdering Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa in 2014.
Teffo’s rigorous cross-examination of the state’s first witness, the forensic investigator who collected evidence from the crime scene in Vosloorus, has seemingly made Teffo unpopular with the judge, and apparently, before that police management as well, if he is to be believed.
The advocate was arrested on Thursday afternoon, right after court adjourned for the day, for allegedly failing to show up in court for another case.
During his arrest, he claimed the reason he was being put in cuffs was because Police Minister Bheki Cele didn’t want him on the case.
So who is Teffo and why would SAPS have it in for him?
Mail and Guardian reports that Teffo has been a thorn in the side of the SAPS management for a while.
He recently took on two high profile criminal matters in which he alleges that police and politicians are complicit in charging the wrong people, ie: his clients.
The publication reports that most of Teffo’s legal work is in the labour law field, and that he is particularly well qualified to assist victimised police members.
“Prior to qualifying as a lawyer and becoming an advocate, he had been well trained as a recruit in the post-1994 SAPS.”
City Press also reports that Teffo was arrested twice within a space of two weeks in November 2021.
Teffo was initially arrested on a charge of contempt of court and was released after paying bail.
The publication reported that the charge was in connection with his alleged failure to appear before court in a labour-related matter.
Teffo also ruffled feathers when he reportedly delivered a dossier to President Cyril Ramaphosa, pertaining to former Police Commissioner Khehla Sithole.
KZN Violence monitor Mary de Haas reportedly sent an email to Hillbrow police, the parliamentary portfolio committee on police, and to Ramaphosa’s office, decrying Teffo’s arrest in November.
In the email, De Haas said: “I have been advised that Teffo, another human rights defender, was arrested on a charge that apparently does not have due legal standing and that he is detained at your station. I believe that this arrest is malicious and is linked to his human rights work, including his [defence] of the rights of SAPS [SA Police Service] members.”
“As a result of his human rights work Teffo’s life was in constant danger, including while in custody,” wrote De Haas.
Some are questioning SAPS’ motive for the highly publicised arrest
On Thursday, moments after court proceedings in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial adjourned, several heavily armed police officers clad in masks and black berets surrounded the cop-turned-lawyer and proceeded to arrest him.
The officers had scant regard for the fact that the man had just wrapped up the day’s proceedings in the highly publicised murder trial, and proceeded to arrest Teffo amid much fanfare in court, with television cameras still rolling, and a court gallery, some of whom filmed his arrest live on social media.
Before the trial, not much was said or even known about Teffo apart from the odd media report.
He has, however, become a household name in recent days, due to his grilling of the state’s first witness in the case, forensic investigator Sergeant Thabo Mosia.
Mosia, who collected evidence from the murder scene, and Teffo have butted heads frequently during the cross-exam.
Teffo had suggested that the crime scene had been tampered with, which Mosia denied.
But, there were moments when the cross-exam turned catty, with Teffo suggesting that Mosia testifies in his native language because his understanding of English might be sub-standard.
Teffo’s interrogation of Mosia saw the investigator admitting that SAPS might have missed critical pieces of evidence, such as a walking stick belonging to Meyiwa’s friend, Tumelo Madlala, who was also in the house at the time of the murder.
Teffo pointed out that Khumalo’s sister, Zandile had used the walking stick against the attackers, and it could have contained the murderer’s DNA.
Mosia had responded that he saw no reason to investigate the walking stick at the time because it belonged to one of the victims, but he later conceded the killer’s DNA may have been on that stick.
Read Da Haas’s full blog entry: Fears for the safety advocate Dan Teffo and suspended SAPS member Patricia Mashale