Judge Maumela drags feet in Meyiwa murder trial

Judge Tshifiwa Maumela, who is currently facing the possibility of suspension due to delays in delivering judgments and concluding outstanding matters, has announced a further postponement in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) received complaints against Maumela and another judge, Mngqibisa Thusi, for their failure to deliver reserved judgments in the Gauteng Division of the High Court.

In response, the JSC in April requested President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend both judges and appoint a Judicial Conduct Tribunal to investigate the allegations of gross incapacity.

The JSC recommended that the judges be suspended until the investigations are completed, with the condition that they finalise all pending matters during their suspensions.

During the proceedings at the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday, Maumela caused another delay in the murder trial of the late Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirate’s captain.

The trial had previously been halted due to a witness requesting that her testimony not be broadcast live, citing safety concerns and discomfort.

On Monday, Maumela stated that he would deliver his judgment on the live broadcast matter and proceed with trial on Wednesday. However, he changed his stance on Wednesday, citing the need to consider the heads of arguments.

Consequently, he postponed the trial overnight, stating that he would follow the same approach of delivering judgment before allowing the trial to continue.

“Subject to measures agreed upon amongst us around the problem we had around the transmission of electronic messages, we all agreed that we shall seek to employ alternative means to prevent the problems we have from hindering the progress in this matter,” he said.

“We aim to proceed further with this matter tomorrow [Thursday] at 10am or as soon thereafter, as will be practically possible given the circumstances. For that reason, this matter is postponed overnight.”

Heads of argument

During the delay, the state and the defence presented their arguments concerning the media’s request to broadcast live feeds of the next witness’ testimony.

State advocate George Baloyi confirmed the witness’ application, explaining that she wished to share her account of witnessing the commission of the crime but preferred to do so in a less intrusive environment.

He argued that the potential for a “trial by media” could undermine the proceedings and the administration of justice, emphasizing that witnesses should have the option to testify either in a normal setting or in front of cameras.

Baloyi further questioned why only high-profile cases received such attention, and stressed that there were numerous cases of educational value not being televised.

Baloyi also highlighted that several other witnesses would likely request exclusion from live coverage, and considering the trial’s expected length, he asserted that the court had the power to regulate its own process.

He pointed out the disadvantages of live broadcasts, while Maumela raised concerns about the witness’ alleged activity on social media discussing the case.

Representing the media, Dan Rosengarten argued that the witness had taken a picture at the court’s lifts, but it remained unclear why she felt scared.

Rosengarten questioned whether she had received any threats or intimidating phone calls, emphasizing the lack of supporting evidence for her fear.

He referred to a social media post by the witness in which she mentioned her family’s decision not to have a media presence during her testimony, but made no mention of personal safety concerns.

Rosengarten further revealed that the witness had made additional comments about the case on social media.

“We do not know why the witness is scared. Has she been threatened? Has anyone phoned her, threatening her?” he asked.

“She did not even depose an affidavit saying why she is scared. Yet, she deposed an affidavit today saying she did not appear in a Netflix documentary.”

The legal counsel for accused one and two and for accused three and four did not add any further comments.

However, advocate Zandile Mshololo, representing accused number five, claimed that the state has failed to present the nature and extent of the relief sought.

Mshololo argued that the trial’s delays were based on “flimsy” reasons and expressed concerns about the potential infringement on the constitutional rights of the public, the accused and their families.

She suggested that audio recording should be allowed, but no further details were provided on this point. “The state failed to put supporting evidence to the objection being sought,” Mshololo said.

“This court is now expected to rule and interfere with the constitutional rights of the public, society at large, the accused, their families, and South Africans.  

“The right to direct access to court proceedings of society at large will be affected. It is my submission that audio should be allowed.”

The court now faces the challenge of balancing these interests while ensuring a fair trial.


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