LISTEN | 'You can't be fighting like MPs': Senzo Meyiwa judge slams court scuffle
A clash over decorum in the courtroom took place between some of the accused and a warden shortly after a tea break during the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial on Monday.
The accused stood and stretched during the break as usual, but after a few minutes the warden saw one of the accused, Mthokoziseni Maphisa, sitting on top of the bench and asked him not to do so. A physical scuffle briefly ensued between the warden and three of the five accused.
Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng was informed of the altercation when the sitting resumed, hearing from the defence teams, the prosecution and the warden.
Addressing all involved, the judge advised them to use words to resolve disagreements.
“I have been told that there was some undignified scuffle that took place during the tea break. My admonition is that all are adults and we must just behave like adults,” he said.
“This fighting like in our parliament ... we don't need that. Ubuntu! If we are all not satisfied with the conduct of [the warden] or the accused, you can resolve that by speaking, not fighting.”
The trial within a trial of the men accused of fatally shooting soccer star Senzo Meyiwa is continuing in the Pretoria high court. The accused — Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya‚ Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi‚ Mthobisi Prince Mncube‚ Maphisa and Fisokuhle Nkani Ntuli — pleaded not guilty to murdering Meyiwa in October 2014.
Prosecutor George Baloyi informed the court that those involved in the scuffle were Maphisa, Mncube and Ntuli.
Mncube's lawyer, advocate Charles Mnisi, said during adjournments, the accused routinely stand up to stretch.
“Today [the warden] approached them and said to them they should sit down as they are seated here, even though it's adjournment. And then, according to Mncube, he uttered the words, if they do not want to comply with the instruction, he is going to hit them.”
Mnisi said the warden started to use his shoulder to push against Mncube. “He was actually trying to ward off the blows,” Mnisi said of Mncube.
The warden, Vusi Jele, told the judge his own version and demonstrated how one of the accused was seated on top of the bench. When he asked the accused to adopt a position more appropriate to the courtroom, he said he was subjected to verbal and physical threats.
“I said we don't sit like that in court. So he was like, 'You are not going to tell me how to sit'. And then I came closer and said, 'No, you are going to sit in a proper way'.”
He said three of the men were howling, saying “we will beat you if you start this thing of yours”.
“Accused 3 [Mncube] was closer, I went down like I was kneeling going for accused 4 [Maphisa], then I saw a blow coming my way. The first one was accused 3 [Mncube] and 5 [Ntuli]. I was trying to duck and eventually my colleagues came closer. They were now all standing,” he said.
Mokgoatlheng said he was not going to make a formal ruling but advised everyone in the courtroom to behave with decorum. The accused were entitled to rise and stretch within reason during adjournments, the judge said. Equally, however, wardens have their own instructions to minimise the risk of any suspects attempting to flee.
#SenzoMeyiwatrial— Chriselda Zozi Lewis (Babes Wendaba) (@Chriseldalewis) November 27, 2023
Here is another angle of the scuffle between some of the accused and the warders.
PLEASE NOTE: We are delayed to continue with proceedings as we are moving to another courtroom. The mics in the initial court which we were seated in were giving… pic.twitter.com/TD6TEuZwqi
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