Tempers flared in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial on Wednesday afternoon when a visibly annoyed Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng fired a salvo at defence advocate Zandile Mshololo, telling her he was no crook and that he had ample experience in the field of law.
Mokgoatlheng is the presiding officer in the second Meyiwa murder trial which started in July last year after the first presiding officer, Judge Tshifiwa Maumela, fell ill, forcing the trial to start from scratch.
The spat between the judge and Mshololo ensued after she stood up to raise an objection regarding how State advocate Ronnie Sibanda was cross-examining accused number one, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, who is currently on the witness stand during the trial-within-a-trial, which is being held to determine the admissibility of Sibiya’s confession statement, which was made after his arrest in May 2020.
Mshololo told Mokgoatlheng that it was unfair for him to let Sibanda continue interrogating Sibiya about a warning statement that he had no knowledge about.
Before the court could break for lunch, Mokgoatlheng took a brief moment and addressed Mshololo on her comments.
“Miss Mshololo, this is what I’m going to say to you. I have been on the bench for 20 years, I have practised as an attorney for 30 years. I have never ever been accused of being a crook or being dishonest,” Mokgoatlheng said in court.
Mokgoatlheng told Mshololo that he was trained by the most reputable legal professionals including the late human rights lawyer, George Bizos.
“They taught me to be honest in this profession ... I’m just telling you who I am,” he said sternly.
Mshololo replied: “My lord, I’m also an advocate.”
“Please, don’t answer me, please,” said a visibly upset Mokgoatlheng.
“I’m also defending the accused. I’m raising an objection on the basis of fairness, I have a right to stand up and raise that objection ... We all have different experiences,” she retorted.
Sibiya claims that he was assaulted by police officers who forced him to sign a written confession statement implicating him in the October 2014 murder of the Bafana Bafana captain and goalkeeper.
Sibiya has been on the stand since Monday.
The State has continued to poke holes in Sibiya’s testimony, pointing out that his testimony differed from the evidence which was led by his legal representative, advocate Thulani Mngomezulu.
When asked why his evidence doesn’t match that of his lawyer, Sibiya said Mngomezulu might have misinterpreted him.
The trial continues.