Johannesburg - In a bid to avoid an irregularity that would result in a “failure of justice”, the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial was postponed to allow defence counsels time to prepare for the new State witness.
As the trial against Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphisa and Sifisokuhle Nkani Ntuli resumed in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, a new State witness was due to take the witness stand.
However, the defence counsels of the five men insisted that they had been provided the statement of the new witness, referred to as Zungu, only late yesterday (Tuesday) and required time to prepare an adequate defence.
The State did not protest, and presiding Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng said he could not allow the matter to continue under the circumstances.
“Accused persons are entitled to adequate notification of the documents supporting the case of the State or those on which the state intends to rely for the proceedings. They are entitled to be afforded sufficient time to defend themselves,” Judge Mokgoathleng said.
“The matter cannot proceed today because the defence is of the correct view that they were only furnished with the witness statement of Zungu late yesterday. If we proceeded today, it would be an infringement of the accused’s constitutional rights under Section 35 of 1996.”
He said that although that was not the case during his time as a practising legal representative, the case of State versus Tshabalala had radically changed the manner in which criminal proceedings were handled in the country.
As he said prior to this, the accused persons and their defence were able to see the statement only on the day of the trial.
“When I was practising, we were always ambushed; we didn’t know what the witness was going to say, but in terms of the new dispensation, the accused are entitled to be appraised of the case of the State and are fully entitled to be given a full opportunity to prepare for that evidence.”
The judge said that if the court allowed proceedings to continue, it would be committing an irregularity that would result in a “failure of justice”.
The matter was adjourned. Arrangements were made for the men to remain behind to allow them time to consult their defence teams.
The matter will continue tomorrow.