Pretoria - The Senzo Meyiwa murder trial is scheduled to resume in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria this morning amid uncertainty over whether advocate Malesela Teffo would be back as legal representative for four of the accused.
Teffo last week said he would be back to represent Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mthobisi Mncube and Mthokoziseni Maphisa.
However, he added he would return to court once his demands were met.
The long list of bizarre demands includes the removal of Police Minister Bheki Cele, who should also be investigated for abuse of power.
He also said the trial must be separated from the fifth accused, Sifisokuhle Ntuli, and his defence counsel, advocate Zandile Mshololo.
He added that State prosecutor advocate George Baloyi must be removed from the trial and a new prosecutor appointed.
He further said presiding Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela must be replaced by a retired judge or Judge Bert Bam, who was known for not tolerating any nonsense in court.
Teffo made a dramatic exit from the trial more than two weeks ago, but in a turn of events last week not only announced that he would remain as counsel for the four accused, but also claimed that he was bewitched by the court with the help of a sangoma.
In a letter sent to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the court, Teffo made shocking statements, including that the presiding Judge Maumela “has brought his sangoma to court”.
“The sangoma was fortunately witnessed by all the parties when coming to consult with Judge Maumela in chambers. At the time we were with Judge Maumela,” Teffo said in the letter.
On July 12, Teffo announced that he was withdrawing from the case. He cited harassment from Judge Maumela, the police and the NPA as among his reasons.
However, on Thursday, in a letter written to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, Teffo said the main reason which made him withdraw from the case, was that the judge was using muti against him.
“Judge Maumela started taking concoction in the form of a liquid, (he would) drink every time the court was in session, to achieve the said goal of collapsing me inside court,” Teffo said.
Teffo is no stranger to courtroom drama. He has endured the wrath of at least two judges over his conduct in court, which was described as being contemptuous.
In March, Judge Winston Msimeki removed Teffo as the defence advocate for two co-accused of Radovan Krejcir in their ongoing criminal trial for being disruptive.
The judge remarked at the time: “I, in my entire career as a judge or an attorney, never experienced or saw what Mr Teffo was doing in court.”
Meanwhile, the Johannesburg Labour Court in October last year found Teffo guilty of contempt of court in an unrelated matter.
Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje had strong words for Teffo’s conduct, which he referred to the Legal Practice Council (LPC) for investigation.
Asked yesterday by the Pretoria News whether they were going to act against Teffo regarding his latest attack against the judge, LPC spokesperson Kabelo Letebele said the Gauteng team confirmed that there was no case or complaint as yet relating to his behaviour in the Meyiwa murder case.
“We have not received anything from the judiciary or any legal professional. At this point, we cannot yet comment further on the matter as we are only seeing what is in public space. The Gauteng office is looking at what Teffo published and will determine whether there has been contravention of rules,” he said.
The council also said it had a court matter against Teffo on August 4, but did not elaborate on what that entailed.
Barry Bateman, spokesperson for AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, which holds a watching brief in the case on behalf of Meyiwa’s mother and sisters, said the entity must act.
“We have taken the view that it is unfortunate that the discourse on the trial is being dictated by the conduct of counsel outside court, as opposed to the merits of the matter being led in proceedings.
“We expect the Legal Practice Council to deal with what we infer to be possible contemptuous and slanderous comments made in a letter about the presiding judge, the State prosecutor and co-counsel,” Bateman said.
He added that it was time that this matter proceeded to allow the family to get closure and justice, as it had now been more than eight years since the murder.
Advocate Francois Botes SC, a former chairperson of the Pretoria Bar, said the council was duty-bound to investigate Teffo’s conduct.
“In my opinion his conduct is not only unethical, but it also points to contempt of court by accusing the judge of witchcraft.”
Botes added that in any event, after withdrawing as counsel for the accused, Teffo could not simply return.
“He has to formally apply to court to again be part of the proceedings. He will then have to explain why he withdrew and who gave him instructions to return.
“He is busy with a very dangerous game and he is making a mockery of the judiciary.
“He may be a clown, but the court is not a circus,” Botes said.