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Meyiwa trial postponed for defence to find its own ballistics expert

South Africa - Pretoria - 11 August 2023. The five accused of Senzo Meyiwa in the doc during their trial at the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

South Africa - Pretoria - 11 August 2023. The five accused of Senzo Meyiwa in the doc during their trial at the North Gauteng High Court. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 1, 2023


Johannesburg - The cross-examination of police ballistics expert Christian Mangena was postponed to afford the defence legal counsels of the five men on trial for the murder of Senzo Meyiwa time to acquire an independent ballistics expert of their own.

As the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, concluded with the evidence of Lieutenant-Colonel Mangena, a spanner was thrown in the works as the defence counsels indicated that they had experienced a delay in acquiring the services of an independent ballistic expert of their own.

Advocate Sipho Ramosepele, the defence counsel for Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya and Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, told the court that a letter was sent to him on Wednesday by ballistics expert Dr Christo de Klerk, wherein he indicated he was unavailable as he was currently in Uganda training the police with wildlife matters.

Ramosepele said De Klerk had indicated he would only be returning to the country on September 6, and he would consult with the defence teams over the weekend of September 9 to 11.

He added that, however, that from there he would again be tied up in a matter in the Eastern Cape High Court for 10 days.

De Klerk will then be available for a second round of consultations should the need arise, as he has another matter in the Durban High Court for three days.

From there, depending on when the matter sits in September, he may avail himself; however, Ramosepele said his scheduling and diary were very tight for the remainder of 2023.

In addition, advocate Zandile Mshololo had also been in contact with another ballistics expert who was interested in assisting the accused. Although the defence counsels have yet to meet with the expert, they informed the court that they would consult with him in due course in the event that De Klerk is not available to expedite the matter.

De Klerk is a qualified and experienced firearm and tool examiner with 29 years of professional experience in interpreting crime scenes and related physical evidence.

He is actively involved in the collection, preservation, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence, shooting scene reconstruction, wound ballistics determination, and expert witness testimony.

He started in 1983 in the South African Police and, in 1989, became a member of the Forensic Science Laboratory. Since 1991, he has been an active member of the Forensic Ballistics Unit within the Forensic Science Laboratory and has been practising as a private ballistic specialist and expert since 1998.

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng said that as a result of the unavailability of the expert, the cross-examination of Mangena would have to stand down.

Judge Mokgoatlheng said the reasons for the delay were understandable, as the accused were entitled to be afforded the fullest opportunity to conduct their defence so that the interests of justice were satisfied.

He explained in court that the reason there were issues and requests for the five men to be afforded an opportunity to see the bullet recovered at the scene was due to allegations by the defence that the evidence was planted.

"I am sure that this is a reasonable request that makes this court amenable to postpone the matter as announced by the defence counsels. We will adjourn your cross-examination until we are advised further."

Mangena on Wednesday once more confirmed that Meyiwa was shot at close range, as well as that the firearm recovered in Mthobisi Prince Mncube's possession during his arrest in 2015 was the same weapon used to kill the soccer player the year before.

The matter will proceed today with a new witness.

The Star