Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo says he is pleased with the pace of the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial since retired Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng took over proceedings in July.
The Meyiwa murder trial had to start from scratch in July after Judge Tshifiwa Maumela fell ill.
Five accused - Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphisa and Fisokuhle Nkani Ntuli - are standing trial for the murder of the Orlando Pirates footballer who was gunned down at the Vosloorus home of his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo in October 2014.
They were charged for his murder in October 2022 after investigations by the SA Police Service’s Cold Case Unit as led by Brigadier Bongani Gininda.
Mlambo was addressing the media during a press conference ahead of the Judges Conference, which is being held at Sun City in North West province this week.
Mlambo said they acted quickly, consulted with the prosecutor and the defence, to replace Maumela once it became clear he was “incapacitated”.
He said they explored if the case could resume from where Maumela left off, but it was deemed not possible.
“You will agree with me that the matter has had good traction since Judge Mokgoatlheng took over. What causes the delays is when the defence or witnesses are not available.
“Unfortunately it is the judiciary that takes the blame, but it's not us and because we don't want to interfere with a fair trial (he has to allow),” said Mlambo.
“That's what has caused the delays. In the next term, Judge Mokgoatlheng is available throughout. I have said to him, he must now finish this case.”
Mokgoatlheng has been a stern presiding officer in the Meyiwa murder trial, often clashing with counsel over issues of law.
In some quarters, especially on social media, some have suggested he is bias against the accused and their defence.
Mokgoatlheng has on a number of occasions clashed with advocates Zandile Mshololo, Thulani Mngomezulu and Charles Mnisi.
Mlambo said if there were any complaints around Mokgoatlheng’s conduct, they would first have to be levelled at him in court.
“We have not received any formal complaints by the representatives. In any way, those complaints would have to be seized with the judge,” Mlambo said.
“I have no basis, I would be interfering, I think what is being referred to is social media commentary because if there was a complaint, the judge would have said so to me. We will not respond to anything cited on social media.”
The Meyiwa murder trial went on recess after advocate Mngomezulu complained he was ill.
Lead investigator, Brigadier Bongani Gininda is currently on the stand during a trial-within-a-trial which is being held to determine if confessions made by Sibiya and Ntanzi were made freely and voluntarily.
The trial resumes on January 22, 2024.