A new judge has been appointed to preside over the high-profile Senzo Meyiwa murder trial, taking over from Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela who was suspended by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had not confirmed Maumela’s replacement by Tuesday morning, but a spokesperson indicated that a statement would be issued to clarify issues.
Maumela is reportedly unwell, and in April the Judicial Service Commission recommended for him to be suspended due to his failure to deliver reserved judgments in a reasonable time.
The same recommendation was also made for Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi, who has also been suspended by Ramaphosa.
Seasoned Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng, who among many other high-profile cases jailed former crime intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli and former colleague Mthembeni Mthunzi in 2020 has reportedly been appointed to take over the Meyiwa murder case, which has attracted an international audience.
A new judge in the Meyiwa murder trial will mean that witnesses who have testified before the High Court in Pretoria would have to return to court and give evidence again — according to senior legal analyst, advocate Modidima Mannya.
“The charge sheet would remain the same. The sequence of witnesses may change. They may bring more witnesses. Remember this is now a new trial,” Mannya said speaking to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika on Tuesday morning.
“You forget whatever has happened. You start afresh before a new judge.”
Mannya said the restarting of a trial is not unusual in the legal spheres.
“I think there is nothing necessarily unusual about a judge being on a matter, and another judge coming in,” he said.
“There could be instances where a judge faces an application for recusal in the middle of a trial in the middle of a trial if he finds that he has to recuse himself, or a judge could perish in the middle of a trial, you would have to bring somebody else.”
He highlighted that the crux of a criminal trial is based on evidence presented before the trial court and it would be impossible for any new judge to continue without hearing what was said before he or she took over a case.
After the murder of the Bafana Bafana ace goalkeeper in 2014, the trial only kicked off last year, with police sergeant Thabo Mosia being the first witness to testify.
For over a year now, the trial went on with several snags and in court, which has been broadcast live, the trial has been characterised by heated exchanges between counsel for four of the five murder accused men, Malesela Teffo, who has since been disbarred for unrelated charges.
The five men, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Mthobisi Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphisa and Sifokuhle Ntuli, are facing charges of murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, possession of an unlicensed firearm as well as possession of ammunition.
All of the five accused have pleaded not guilty.
Meyiwa was killed on October 26, 2014, while in the company of his girlfriend and the mother of his child, Kelly Khumalo, in Vosloorus.
In the house, that day were Meyiwa, Kelly and her younger sister, Zandile, their mother Ntombi Khumalo (MaKhumalo), Longwe Twala, Meyiwa’s friends Mthokozisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala, Kelly’s then four-year-old son, Christian, and Thingo, her daughter with Meyiwa.