Shoddy police work has taken centre stage during the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial in Pretoria, as testifying officers continue to face tough questions from the defence.
The Meyiwa murder trial is expected to resume on Monday morning with more testimony expected from Ekurhuleni Metro Police (EMPD) officer Constable Wendel Jonathan, who was with the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit which was used by the Meyiwa murder investigation police to escort the accused.
The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is currently in a trial-within-a-trial to determine if alleged confessions made by Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya and Bongani Ntanzi were made freely and voluntarily.
The court has so far heard testimony from a number of senior commissioned police officers and a magistrate who had been roped in to take confessions from the accused.
Ntanzi's defence advocate Thulani Mngomezulu has told the court he was assaulted, tortured and tubed. Tubing is an apartheid-era tactic that involves the accused being suffocated with a plastic bag, causing asphyxiation.
None of the senior police officers who have taken statements from Ntanzi - Lieutenant Colonel James Hadebe, Lieutenant Colonel Mohale Raphadu or even Magistrate Vivienne Cronje, noted any physical evidence of assault against Ntanzi.
They also had not asked for him to be evaluated by a doctor or district surgeon. Ntanzi also told the Magistrate Vivienne Cronje he had not washed in eight days, but she observed the accused was calm and relaxed.
Earlier in the Meyiwa murder trial, the court heard about how the first police officers who responded to the Khumalo's Vosloorus home did not realise that the murder scene was a crime scene. They failed to secure the scene with police tape and left for the hospital. They only realised the seriousness of the issue when they saw Meyiwa's dead body at the hospital.
The people who were in the house on the day Meyiwa was murdered were Kelly Khumalo and her younger sister, Zandile; their mother, Gladness 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. Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng has expressed bewilderment that none of them were tested for gunshot residues.
“The other thing is that competent police should have taken all of your clothes. I am surprised because this firearm exploded in a confined space, therefore, common sense tells you that they should have taken all the clothes off all the people who were there and conducted the same tests on them,” Mokgoatlheng said.
EMPD SWAT officer Constable Jonathan told the court he recorded all his movements with the accused in a pocketbook. Jonathan was among officers who transported Ntanzi on at least three occasions, to Soweto’s Moroka police station, Diepkloof police station and the Boksburg Magistrate's Court.
When the pocketbook was requested in court, he told the court he no longer had it as the SWAT unit was disbanded in 2022. “So the office we were utilising was no more in use. I don't know if the records were kept or what happened to them,” Jonathan told the court.
The defence has accused the SWAT unit of being one of the police units which assaulted and tortured the accused. All officers have denied assaulting or torturing the accused.
Meanwhile, Nthabiseng Dabuzana of Dabuzana Attorneys told news broadcaster Newzroom Afrika that if Ntanzi had been denied his rights to appear before a magistrate within 48 hours of his arrest, he could likely walk, as that would mean his arrest was unconstitutional.
She said if police were also found to have extracted information from him before he had his rights read and explained to him, that could deem the process as unconstitutional and he could potentially sue for unlawful detention.
She said the chances of charges sticking would be very slim if that was found to be the case.
“Some police officers do not understand the basics. Some do not know rights had to be read before rights read before any pointing out or any confession,” she said.
Elton Hart, a legal analyst from the University of Johannesburg told the public broadcaster, the SABC News, said it seemed that there were highly, irregular and underhanded tactics at play.
This week, the Meyiwa murder trial will hear testimony from investigating officer Brigadier Bongani Gininda, who is one of the key men behind the murder investigation. The court is also expected to hear from Sergeant Mogane, who was the officer who booked out Ntanzi at 8.15am on June 18, before only returning him at 2.30am on June 19. He was then booked out two hours later, supposedly to be taken to the Vosloorus Magistrate's Court.
He only got to court after 1pm as he made a confession at the Moroka police station at about 11am.
Sergeant Mogane will have to explain Ntanzi's movements.
The trial continues.