Meyiwa trial judge summons head of Legal Aid SA to court over funding of ballistic expert

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng will be presiding over the Senzo Meyiwa trial. He has been appointed to take over from Judge Tshifiwa Maumela. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng will be presiding over the Senzo Meyiwa trial. He has been appointed to take over from Judge Tshifiwa Maumela. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 15, 2024


THE head of Legal Aid SA has been summoned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to answer whether the body intends to fund the testimony of an independent ballistic expert on behalf of the five men on trial for the 2014 murder of Senzo Meyiwa.

As the murder trial into the killing of the Orlando Pirates soccer player resumed in the High Court earlier today following the court’s recess, the proceedings were hit with yet another delay.

The delay, much to the irritation of Presiding Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng, came after State prosecutor George Baloyi informed the court that although the court had adjourned to afford the legal defence time to consult with their independent ballistic expert, there seemed to be delays in bringing him to court.

Baloyi said he was informed a week prior by the defence that they would not be ready to proceed as they were still awaiting a response from the Legal Aid SA board on whether it would finance the cost of their expert.

“They are still awaiting the outcome of such an application. It is not clear how long the legal aid board will take to consider the application, but the bottom line is that the defence will not be ready to cross examine today.”

An agreement was reached to proceed with other witnesses in the meantime, pending the outcome of the application.

Advocate Charles Mnisi representing accused number three, Mthobisi Prince Mncube, explained to the court that Legal Aid SA had suggested that the counsel or lawyer representing the accused who was allegedly found in possession of the firearm allegedly used in Meyiwa’s murder should be the one to make the submission.

“I have submitted the documents and we are still waiting for the outcome thereof.”

This, however, did not sit well with the judge who questioned why it had taken months to come to this discovery.

“You know what surprises me, the evidence of the ballistic expert was led in August, and the case was then postponed on the basis that the defence wants to consult with their expert who unfortunately is committed somewhere else, but (attorney) Ramosepele said they had preliminary consulted with him. It’s been eight months so far and this has not been done, Mr Mnisi is it not painful?”

Mnisi was at pains to explain to the court that the accused men had first attempted to have family members raise the funds to bring in the expert, however, soon realised that this would not be feasible coupled with the daily appearance costs of defence counsels.

“On August 27, 2022 this case postponed and as of then they had applied for legal aid because they could not afford legal counsel, all of a sudden then they said they can raise funds for an expert, you as counsel should have brought it to their attention that ballistic experts are expensive and may cost something like R13 million to bring in,” Mokgoatlheng said.

Following this, he requested the State to call in the head of Legal Aid SA to court tomorrow to indicate to the court if they would fund the cost of the independent ballistic expert.

The matter then proceeded with the testimony of Sergeant Vusimuzi Mogane.