Senzo Meyiwa trial Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng has once more emphasised that he was simply following the letter of the law, in the wake of criticisms and public scrutiny he continues to face as he presides over the murder trial of the soccer star.
Since his takeover of the murder trial following the suspension of Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela, Judge Mokgoatlheng has similar to his predecessor continued to face immense scrutiny and negativity about how he was interfering with the defence of the five men currently on trial for the October 2014 murder of Meyiwa.
The presiding officer has throughout the trial been at pains to explain that he was not being prejudicial in the matter but was simply applying the law as was his responsibility.
However, he continues to face unrelenting public criticism of how he was handling the matter.
As the trial-within-a-trial resumed with the cross-examination of lead investigator Brigadier Bongani Gininda following its adjournment on Friday, advocate Zandile Mshololo raised her desire to cross-examine on behalf of the second accused.
Mshololo, who was appointed to represent the fifth accused Fisokuhle Ntuli, kicked off her cross-examination informing the court that she would start her examination first on behalf of Ntanzi.
However, State prosecutor George Baloyi queried this as he explained how no two counsels could cross-examine the witness for the same accused.
Mshololo attempted to abandon her line of questioning, however, Mokgoatlheng halted the cross-examination as he referred the defence counsel to first read the case of State versus Basson.
While Mshololo attempted to inform the court that she would abide by its decision and proceed without cross-examining on behalf of Ntanzi, Judge Mokgoatlheng was quick to insist on reading an excerpt from the case.
“Just go fetch the case, let’s just read it because I am now being accused that I am denying the opportunity to cross-examine and interfering, it’s not me.
“You keep saying the court says, I’m saying the law says. If you phrase it some other way it could perhaps be permissible but if you say cross-examining on behalf of number two when Mngomezulu already said that and he knows I told him he can't do that. With advocate Ramosepele, I made the exception in the interest of fairness to relax that rule, and I can even do it now, but people must understand that it is not me saying that, it is the law.”
The judge allowed the cross-examination on behalf of Ntanzi to continue.
The trial-within-a-trial continues with Mshololo’s cross-examination.