Khaya Koko: Dan Teffo is the staring of the Senzo Meyiwa trial

The Expendables 4, an action thriller featuring some of Hollywood’s finest leading men such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is set to be released this year, should have also starred advocate Dan Teffo — the murdered Bafana Bafana player Senzo Meyiwa trial’s “staring”. 

Let me explain. 

“Staring” is a township colloquialism — commonly known as Tsotsitaal — and derived from the word “starring”, as in the lead actor in a movie. 

Tsotsitaal, especially in present-day Gauteng, was used as an adopted common language in the early 20th century, when cheap black labour was brought into cities by successive repressive regimes, and relied on all languages, including US English, to build its vocabulary. For more, read Professor Louis Molamu’s 2003 book Tsotsitaal: A Dictionary of the Language of Sophiatown.

So, in township speak, a staring is (usually) a male leading role, especially in an action thriller. 

Which brings us to Teffo.

Teffo plays more than a minor role in the trial into Meyiwa’s October 2014 murder, following a fatal shot at the Vosloorus, Gauteng, home of his then-lover, singer Kelly Khumalo.

There is no doubt that Teffo, the counsel for the first four of the five accused standing trial for allegedly murdering Meyiwa, has emerged as the trial’s leading man, owing, mainly, to the protaganist’s often comical duels with his metaphorical bête noire, Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela. 

After all, every staring needs a decent rival to make the Pretoria high court-based film work. 

The fact that Teffo’s name topped the trends list on social media sites this week spoke volumes of the reception he has received from the cinema’s gallery.  

One would think that the prosecutor, advocate George Baloyi, would be the one to lead the credits in this blockbuster trial that is searching for the truth in the gunning-down of a celebrity who had ascended to national icon status by the time of his death. 

As a prosecutor, I think Baloyi has handled his evidence very well so far, asserting that the state was able to link the alleged murder weapon, a 9mm Parabellum, to Mthobisi Ncube, the third accused, through ballistic forensic analysis. 

Baloyi, unfortunately, does not ooze the necessary chutzpah to be a heartthrob. 

Rather, he resembles filmmaker Tyler Perry’s (in)famous characters: those light-skinned black men who swoop in to save God-fearing black women from the evil clutches of dark-skinned men, who are known for pummeling leading ladies to pulps. 

You know the type, don’t you? 

The guy who, before ringing the doorbell, hides a big bouquet of red roses behind his back in order to surprise his girlfriend when she opens the door.

Baloyi, however, will need to be as tough as the thorns on those roses because Teffo has made it clear that he is bringing the heat. 

Teffo’s game plan was evinced on Tuesday, when the advocate cross-examined sergeant Thabo Mosia, a forensic field worker, the state’s first witness. 

Teffo asked Mosia why brigadier Philani Ndlovu, Gauteng’s former head of detectives, would dispatch Mosia to the Vosloorus crime scene without giving out the house’s address. 

Mosia had testified that, although he was technically off duty, he was on standby for any possible assignments when he got a call from Ndlovu at around 11:45pm to attend the Meyiwa scene, but was not given the Khumalo family home’s address. 

In seeking commentary on what he called Ndlovu’s “bizarre” police work, Teffo reminded Mosia that he was testifying under oath, and that there were consequences should the officer lie on the stand.  

Baloyi immediately rose to object after taking issue with Teffo’s line of questioning, with the prosecutor saying Teffo was trying to “elicit hearsay evidence” from Mosia by asking for his opinion on Ndlovu’s state of mind.  

“He [Teffo] is also asking the witness to express an opinion and, when he [Mosia] does that, he is now accused of not being truthful. I think it is an unfair [line of questioning], with the greatest of respect, my lord,” Baloyi objected. 

But Teffo, with the confidence of Jackie Chan scything through a gauntlet of triad goons, declared, rather matter-of-factly, that Baloyi was in for more pain. 

“My lord, if advocate Baloyi can be comfortable with my questions to this witness, I’ll know I’m not doing my job. Mr Baloyi must be troubled by my presence here — and it’s going to be like that until he is blue in the face,” Teffo charged. 

And you can bet your bottom dollar that Teffo meant every word, because, of course, that’s what true starings do.

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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