Meyiwa trial ballistic expert to be cross-examined in May

Lieutenant colonel Chris Mangena, the forensic specialist who testified in Oscar Pistorius's trial, is also testifying in Meyiwa murder trial . File picture: Leon Sadiki

Lieutenant colonel Chris Mangena, the forensic specialist who testified in Oscar Pistorius's trial, is also testifying in Meyiwa murder trial . File picture: Leon Sadiki

Published Apr 16, 2024


THE highly anticipated cross-examination of forensic expert, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Mangena, has finally been set down for mid-May following an informal investigation launched by Senzo Meyiwa trial judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng.

As the trial resumed in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on Tuesday, the presiding judge launched an informal investigation in terms of Section 342A(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. This followed further delays by the defence counsel of the five accused in securing their independent ballistic expert timeously.

The judge expressed frustration after he was informed at the start of proceedings on Monday, that there were delays in securing the expert, something which he rejected given that the cross examination of Mangena had been postponed since August 2023.

In terms of the Constitution, he said, accused were entitled to a speedy trial, however, it also addressed “unreasonable delays” which threatened to violate that right.

“Here we have a ballistic expert, a State witness who gives forensic evidence in August. Then it takes eight months to cross-examine him, but I don’t even know if it’s going to happen this year,” the judge said.

“It’s unfair on that witness because he is seized with other matters, but the unfairness is predicated on the fact that in the pursuit of the other evidence in this trial, the cross-examination also impinges upon the evidence of this witness who has given evidence in August and he is not being cross-examined on that.”

Judge Mokgoatlheng said he had also been requested to hear the response of the Legal Aid SA board in chambers, however, he had refused as it went against the law.

Representing Legal Aid SA, Flavia Isola explained to the court that their office had only received a request for funding on April 5.

Isola told the court that in terms of the organisation’s policies and procedures in requesting an expert, the costing of such an expert, among other details, were required, which would set out where the approval should be sought.

However, in the case of the defence, none of that had been furnished to the board as yet.

“In fact, in our response to them when we asked for costs, we broke it down for them in consultation, perusal drafting, disbursements like travelling and we set out in the email how we want the costing and it hasn’t been forthcoming,” she said.

What further aggravated the judge was the fact that a cost value was yet to be furnished to the board from the defence counsels’ expert.

“I mean cellphone. I hear they say President Biden can phone President Ramaphosa in South Africa when he is at Phala Phala and now you can’t communicate with the expert. Where is he? In Australia?

“My worry is that forensic evidence is very sensitive, so you can’t expect a witness to wait eight months to be cross-examined because when he comes here, he will say they can’t remember because it would be so long ago,” the judge said.

Advocate Charles Mnisi attempted to allay the court’s frustration that a preliminary draft was available and it should not take long to have everything done once approval is granted.

Mangena gave evidence on his investigation into the bullet fragment found at the Meyiwa murder scene and the gun the State believes killed him.

Judge Mokgoatlheng made an order following this that the cross-examination of Mangena would proceed on May 10, while the trial proceeded with other witnesses.

The trial continues.

The Star

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