Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng rejects notion of ‘heavily armed officers’ - Senzo Meyiwa trial

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng during the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng during the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 2, 2023


Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng has taken judicial notice on the notion of ‘heavily armed officers’ who had been escorting the accused during the investigation into the Senzo Meyiwa murder.

He said he was taking judicial notice, which allows the court to accept the truth of certain facts which are known to them as they are well-established even though no evidence was led to prove these facts.

This comes after Magistrate Vivienne Cronje, who administered one of the confessions of the accused, testified at the Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria and noted in the pro forma confession statement that there had been heavily armed police officers who accompanied the accused, Bongani Ntanzi, to make his confession statement.

She said there were about eight Ekurhuleni Metro Police (EMPD) officers, and at least six of them defied her when she requested their appointment certificates. One of the officers testified this week that they were dressed in uniform with full bullet vests, carrying a 9mm firearm and an assault rifle each.

Judge Mokgoatlheng said it was common cause that some accused, acting in cahoots with their “comrades”, managed to get hold of AK47 rifles, disarm police officers while accused were in transit, or even attack a courthouse as they did at a Joburg court about a year ago.

“Have you ever heard of accused persons being transported with the normal vans of the State being taken to court in the morning or from court in the afternoon?” asked Judge Mokgoatlheng.

Mokgoatlheng said law enforcement officers have come underfire from armed criminals who have attacked officers with AK47s.

“And those prisoners have been released by these AK47-wielding Samaritans.

“Now when it is put to you that you were heavily armed. What is your view of the possibility of being attacked by AK47-wielding persons, and you come with a .38 pistol?”

Constable Jabulani Buthelezi, who is one of the EMPD Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit officers who escorted the Meyiwa murder accused, replied: “That is the reason we appear armed in that fashion”.

Defence advocates, particularly Zandile Mshololo, have questioned the EMPD SWAT unit officers about being heavily armed under cross-examination.

One officer, Constable Wendell Jonathan, denied they were heavily armed and said the firearms they carried as the SWAT unit were part of their uniform, while another, Constable Buthelezi, conceded under cross-examination that they were heavily armed.

Judge Mokgoatlheng said he was taking judicial notice on the matter of police being “heavily armed”.

“The court can take judicial notice of what the court has put to the witness because these exigencies have even happened inside court.

“Judges have been locked into their cupboards. About six to eight months back, there were AK-47-wielding persons who released persons at the Joburg court; they shot some of the guards at the entrance. The courts were adjourned.

“The judges, including this one, were told to hide in our wardrobes. So I am taking that on judicial notice. Not that it applies to this case, but I am saying it is a reality,” said Judge Mokgoatlheng.

He said two people were killed, and the accused from various courts were subsequently released.

State advocate George Baloyi said he was aware of the matter and said it was one of the reasons the court adjourned early to avoid such.

Defence advocates Charles Mnisi and Zithulele Nxumalo said they were aware of the matter, while advocate Thulani Mngomezulu said he was not aware of the incident, but he was aware of one incident where prosecutors fled to the roof due to angry family threats.

Mshololo was scolded by the judge when she said: “At least no one was forced to make a statement under those circumstances”, adding she was not aware of the incident.

Judge Mokgoatlheng scolded her and said she had to answer with “integrity and honour”, adding that that “has nothing to do with making a statement.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

IOL News