/ 12 July 2022

Senzo Meyiwa trial: Advocate Dan Teffo quits, cites ‘harassment’ by judge

Dan Teffo
Dan Teffo. (Twitter)

In a dramatic end to the day’s proceedings, advocate Dan Teffo quit as the first four accused’s lawyer in the Senzo Meyiwa trial, citing what he said was “harassment” from the court and the state. 

“I can no longer continue in this court based on the harassment I am receiving, both from the state and from the court,” Teffo told the high court in Pretoria on Tuesday. 

He added that he would revert to his position as a watching brief for the Meyiwa family, as requested by the footballer’s brother, Sifiso Meyiwa.

“The reason I can no longer be able to be in court and face you is that there are serious allegations here, where you are accused number one,” Teffo told Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela.

The court was meant to hear Teffo’s interlocutory application to challenge the Pretoria high court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate the Meyiwa murder trial, according to Maumela’s order on 14 June. 

Teffo did not adhere to the court’s order to file papers for his challenge. Instead, he submitted a letter from Mthobisi Ncube, the third accused in the trial, who alleged that he had been abused and subjected to “inhumane conditions” inside Tshwane’s Kgosi Mampuru II prison, where he is being detained. 

In the letter, read out in court, Ncube, isaid he was placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and let out for only an hour to exercise.

“I am held in mechanical restraints once outside my cell for any reason, including to visit [other inmates]. The food we are getting is not fit for an adult person,” the letter reads.

State prosecutor George Baloyi told Maumela that Teffo had sent correspondence to the state saying that he would not continue with the interlocutory application to challenge the trial being moved from the Johannesburg high court, the jurisdiction under which Vosloorus, where Meyiwa was killed, falls.

Meyiwa was killed in October 2014 at the family home of his then girlfriend, singer Kelly Khumalo, in what the state alleges to have been a botched house robbery. 

On 14 June, Maumela ordered Teffo to file his heads of argument by 23 June to Baloyi and advocate Zandile Mshololo — the legal representative of the fifth accused, Fisokuhle Ntuli — and that they should respond to Teffo by 30 June. 

The other three accused are Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi and Mthokoziseni Maphisa. All five face charges of premeditated murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, illegal possession of a firearm and the illegal possession of ammunition, to which they have pleaded not guilty.

Baloyi said that on 30 June, Teffo addressed a letter to the state, saying an email he had sent to Baloyi 10 days earlier regarding legal representations Teffo wanted to raise was “directed at the investigating officer and the police commissioner [General Fannie Masemola], and that he expected a responses from them”.

Baloyi added that Teffo sent another letter to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), asking it to grant him a nolle prosequi certificate as to why it refused to charge Longwe Twala, Kelly Khumalo, her mother Gladness Khumalo, her sister Zandi Khumalo, Meyiwa’s childhood friends Mthokozisi Thwala and Tumelo Madlala, as well as neighbour Maggie Phiri. 

The NPA had recommended that the seven be prosecuted on murder and defeating the ends of justice charges for allegedly killing Meyiwa and masking the footballer’s death as a robbery gone wrong. The recommended charges were based on the January 2019 opening of a second case docket into Meyiwa’s killing. 

Mshololo, responding to Teffo’s bid to introduce Ncube’s letter alleging abuse in prison, said the court had set down Tuesday to hear Teffo’s jurisdiction application and that no other requests should be entertained. 

A visibly irritated Mshololo apologised for not filing responding papers by 30 June, saying that she was unable to adhere to the court’s ruling because Teffo had decided to desert his application. 

“The purpose for today’s sitting was to deal with the issue of jurisdiction. None of the directives of this honourable court were complied with, including by the applicant [Teffo],” Mshololo argued.

“If the issue of jurisdiction has been abandoned, then there is no reason for this court to sit and listen to any other application.”

But Teffo pleaded with Maumela to hear the alleged plight of Ncube, saying the third accused’s life was in danger and the court should intervene on his behalf. 

“The court has jurisdiction to entertain his complaint. We don’t agree with deferring this matter to a next time because we are not sure that there will be a next time,” Teffo argued. 

“May the humble cry of my client be heard before it’s too late.”

Maumela said he could not interfere with prison proceedings and policies, even when he sympathised with Ncube.

“It will be giving false hope, even to accused number three, that I will have something to say [about the prison conditions] which is not the case,” Maumela said. “I will not let this matter unfold further before me … because I will not have anything to say.”

At that point Teffo announced: “It is an opportune moment for me to inform this court that I am withdrawing” before packing his bags and leaving.

Maumela accepted Teffo’s withdrawal, and ordered that the trial return on 2 August for the first four accused to indicate, with the help of the state, whether they had secured new representation, and consulted adequately. 

All accused are remanded in custody until 2 August.