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Defence lawyer's arrest in court adds to drama of Meyiwa murder trial

Cele said he only learnt about it when his spokesperson Lirandzu Themba alerted him about the video showing advocate Malesela Teffo accusing him of being behind his arrest.

Adv Malesela Teffo in handcuffs and rounded by the police during the his arrest in North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.
Adv Malesela Teffo in handcuffs and rounded by the police during the his arrest in North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

Police minister Bheki Cele says he did not know about the dramatic arrest of the defence lawyer in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial on Thursday.

Speaking to eNCA last night, Cele said he only learnt about it when his spokesperson Lirandzu Themba alerted him about the video showing advocate Malesela Teffo accusing him of being behind his arrest.

​Cele added he will inquire from police commissioner Sehlahle Masemola if he had known anything about the arrest before it happened.

Deputy speaker of the National Assembly Lechesa Tsenoli expressed discomfort  over the arrest. 

“Please allow me to express my discomfort at the scenes and the force displayed there for the arrest of the advocate. It does not look good.. It is disturbing. I do not know, whatever the case is, if it warrants that kind of conduct,” Tsenoli said in an interview with SABC News.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said he was not aware of Teffo’s arrest.  

“The police will say if they have grounds to effect an arrest, it is their job to effect an arrest. If the complaint is about how it [the arrest] was done then that might be a different issue altogether,” said Zondo in an interview with SABC News.

Teffo's instructing attorney Tshepo Thobane's revelation about the expected arrest of the advocate led to judge Tshifhiwa Maumela adjourning proceedings for the day. Barely five minutes after Maumela had left the courtroom, a group of police officers, including the tactical response team members,  walked into the courtroom with one of them in possession of a warrant for Teffo's arrest.

An officer in civilian clothing went straight to Teffo and showed him the document.

Teffo is representing four of the five accused in the murder trial of Meyiwa, a former Bafana Bafana star.

Drama unfolded as the officers surrounded Teffo in front of journalists.

Teffo became agitated about his arrest in court, in front of flashing cameras.

His colleague Adv Zandile Mshololo, who is representing accused number five in the trial, intervened, explaining to Teffo that he should just co-operate.

“This is harassment...They are arresting me because I’m in this case. [Police minister] Bheki Cele does not want me in this case. That is the reason. You have a warrant of arrest from January, why are only executing it now?” Teffo complained as police handcuffed him.

Police spokesperson Brig Brenda Muridili said police would respond as soon as they get the necessary facts.

Teffo was taken to the court’s holding cells. He was arrested for an assault and trespassing case. A warrant was issued in January when he failed to appear in court.

Adv MaleselaTeffo making a phone call following his surprise arrest in North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Adv MaleselaTeffo making a phone call following his surprise arrest in North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

“The chief prosecutor could have arranged for him to appear in court, [which would have been better] than the drama we’ve just witnessed,” Mshololo said in disbelief.

Meyiwa was killed at his then girlfriend Kelly Khumalo’s home in Vosloorus, on the East Rand, in October 2014.

The accused – Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphisa and Sifisokuhle Nkani Ntuli –  face charges of premeditated murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, possession of firearms without a licence and possession of ammunition.

Before lunch, Teffo had been questioning the state’s first witness Sgt Thabo Mosia about his knowledge of the alleged tampering with crime scene evidence that happened before he arrived 20 minutes after midnight.

Teffo told the court that before Mosia arrived on the scene, a meeting was held at the house between senior generals of the police and the family.

Among those who allegedly attended that meeting was Maj-Gen Shadrack Sibiya who was working for the Hawks at that time and MEC for community safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane.

Teffo alleged that it was in that meeting that Ndlovu, who called Mosia to the scene, was assigned to “manage” him.

“I put it to you the evidence you collected on both occasions was staged. You being oblivious of this tampering of the scene,  you did your job. You were oblivious that these things were planted,” Teffo said.

Teffo poked holes in the evidence that had been presented by Mosia, who took the stand for the third day.

Teffo questioned Mosia’s testimony that there were five adults and two children who were moved to the bedroom of the house to prevent them from moving around the scene.

“Why did you not take pictures of the bedroom from the inside? ... I therefore put it to you that it is true, there was no-one here,” said Teffo.He said the people Mosia was talking about had actually spent the night at a house in Mulbarton, south of Johannesburg.

– additional reporting by Nomazima Nkosi

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