Pretoria – The prosecution in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial has agreed with the defence team’s application for the judge to remove Ten10 Films media crew from the courtroom, arguing that their documentaries produced for Netflix endanger witnesses in the high-stakes trial and they also border on making a judgement before the trial concludes.
“They have shown that they do not really pay much attention to the sub judice rule and they have also indicated in court that the possibility of flighting another documentary cannot be excluded. If one looks at the whole purpose of media coverage, it is basically for news channels to inform the public,” lead prosecutor Advocate George Baloyi told Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela.
“A submission has been made that they are not a news channel. They might be a media house, but they are not a news channel. This court is empowered to lay certain guidelines as far as the coverage is concerned.”
Baloyi added: “In the documentary the witnesses had to give a version of what happened and viewers were also invited to express an opinion on the merits of the case. We therefore submit that based on the previous conduct of Ten10 Films and what they have submitted in court, that flighting further documentaries cannot be excluded, we agree with counsel of counsel one up to four that they should be barred from further participation in the proceedings.”
Earlier, advocate Malesela Daniel Teffo, who represents four of the men accused of the murder, had argued vehemently for Ten10 Films media crew to be booted from the court.
“It cannot be that these people are given leeway to film this these proceedings, free of charge. Right now, they are busy with a sixth episode. In episodes one to five, they had role players were some of our witnesses-to-be were interviewed in that documentary,” said Teffo.
“I am saying, we are amenable to fight or to engage them in a court of law. That court, where they bring their application, should be another court, not this court. They are in the wrong court. Here we are dealing with criminal proceedings. We were supposed to have started with this matter a long time ago.”
Teffo insisted that Ten10 Films was covering the court proceedings based on the permission granted to news companies – not for the production of films or documentaries but for public interest.
“Let them bring their application (to cover the proceedings) in another court and we will attend to them. We are not afraid of them. We will deal with them. They will not succeed. They will never be here. Today they must just get out of here, take their cameras, we want to start,” he argued.
Teffo said witnesses identified in the Netflix documentary, released days before the trial started, had received threats.
Advocate Winks, for Ten10 Films, told the court that his client was a media house and had brought an application to the court, and was allowed to film the proceedings.
“We are a media house and our application made it very clear what Ten10 Films is. You cannot distinguish against Ten10 Films and any other media house present here,” said Winks.
The judge said his registrar, when she received applications for live coverage of the court proceedings, presumed that Ten10 Films was a media house “without knowing differently”.
Meyiwa was killed in 2014 while visiting his girlfriend and the mother of his child, singer Kelly Khumalo, in Vosloorus.
In the house that day were Meyiwa, Kelly and her younger sister, Zandile, their mother Ntombi Khumalo, Longwe Twala, Meyiwa’s friends Mthokozisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala, Kelly’s then 4-year-old son, Christian, and Thingo, her daughter with Meyiwa.
Five men, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, 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 accused have pleaded not guilty.