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Delay expected in Senzo Meyiwa case over bid for trial within trial

The murder suspects in the Senzo Metiwa trial at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

The murder suspects in the Senzo Metiwa trial at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 6, 2022

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Pretoria - The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria’s hope for no further delays in the murder trial of former Orlando Pirates goal keeper Senzo Meyiwa may be dashed, as advocate Malesela Teffo is expected to bring a formal application for a trial-within-a-trial today.

Teffo, the defence counsel of accused one to four, informed the court on Friday, midway through the cross-examination of forensic officer Sergeant Thabo Johannes Mosia, that he was uncomfortable continuing with the trial.

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He believed continuing with the cross-examination of Mosia was a futile exercise given the new information his team had been alerted to.

Teffo told the court he was of the view that his clients’ constitutional rights had been violated following their appearance in the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court on March 27, 2020. As a result, it necessitated that a trial-within-a-trial be held to first deal with a number of issues.

The five men had appeared before Magistrate Hans Havenga. Four of them, namely Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Mthobisi Prince Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphisa, and Sifokuhle Ntuli, without any legal representation, contended they had no need for it because they were wrongly implicated.

“That is where the whole country saw the accused refusing to enter the box saying, ‘We don’t know why we are here, we were never informed of our rights, we believe the people who were supposed to be here have money … We are poor and we are being scapegoated by the police and NPA to avoid prosecuting the relevant people’,” he said.

Teffo said in addition to the appearances in the magistrate’s court there were also confessions obtained from Sibiya and Ntanzi, the first and second accused, which had to be tested as he alleged they had been obtained only after the pair were severely assaulted.

The defence counsel said it was crucial for the court to deal with the admissibility of the confessions before proceeding with the main trial, as without it the confessions remained in limbo.

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“Having discovered that my clients’ rights were violated, we submit there should be a trial-within-a-trial, whereby we can be given the opportunity to bring an application … but to proceed with business as normal would be a risk to my clients’ rights.”

The defence team was of the view that the only thing linking accused one to four to the crime were the forced confessions, he said, and they wanted to deal with the alleged confessions, prior appearances, as well as different police case dockets before proceeding with the main trial.

Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela indicated his surprise as to why Teffo was bringing this matter before the court as a trial-within-a-trial could be held at any time during the proceedings.

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“The strange thing is that I am hearing from you about confessions whereas what I am used to is being notified by the State that it intends to rely on confessions it will introduce and that is when you are to respond which may lead to a trial-within-a-trial.

“As to why you and I are having this debate now with no one having suggested the use of any confessions I don’t understand, are you not ahead of yourself on this point?”

Judge Maumela said he would be able to deal with that as there were no confessions before him at this stage, therefore if they were submitted those affected will respond to that issue.

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He added that he could not be a party to a procedure where he hears of confessions to be used from the defence counsel instead of the State.

“You are pushing me into something I do not know. You are not going to tell me how to run this trial as the tail will not wag the dog in my name,” Judge Maumela added.

State prosecutor advocate George Baloyi told the court the State would deal with those concerns as and when they came to that bridge, which Jusge Maumela seconded.

Baloyi added that at this stage he was not sure what relief was being sought by the accuseds’ defence.

Despite this assertion, Teffo subsequently informed the court he would be bringing a formal application to this effect today.

Asked for confirmation of the intent to continue with the application, Teffo’s instructing attorney, Thabiso Thobane, said he was not in court on Friday, however, he added if that was announced then that would be the way forward.

Pretoria News

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