One of the five men accused of murdering footballer Senzo Meyiwa complained of being detained unlawfully by the police for over eight days without appearing in court to Magistrate Vivienne Cronje, but she did nothing and proceeded to take a confession statement.
This was revealed by Cronje on Monday under cross-examination from defence advocate Zandile Mshololo, who sought to show that accused two Bongani Ntanzi had confided in Cronje to help but she did not do so.
Ntanzi claims he was forced to make the confession statement under duress when he was severely assaulted at four different locations by the police.
Mshololo was in a bid to show that Ntanzi’s confession statement was void, as he was unlawfully detained, having spent over eight days in police custody without taking a bath or appearing in court in 48 hours in accordance with South African law.
There is currently a trial-within-a-trial in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to determine if alleged confessions made by Ntanzi and Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya were made freely and voluntarily.
Under cross-examination from Mshololo, Cronje’s conduct was placed under scrutiny.
“The police called me and asked me if I know of Senzo Meyiwa’s death. I was arrested on the 16th, I didn’t see or understand what was going on.
“I didn’t understand when I was supposed to appear in court. If one is arrested, they are supposed to come to court. I called my attorney and I told him I want to come to court,” Cronje recorded Ntanzi as saying on the proforma confession statement.
Advocate Mshololo said: “From my understanding of what you recorded here, the accused was complaining to you about not appearing in court.”
Cronje responded, saying: “That is correct, it indicates that he was aware of his Constitutional rights to contact his attorney to come to court.”
She was asked what she understood about an accused saying they had not appeared in court in eight days and she answered.
“I considered that to be an irregularity. At that stage because I did not have further information apart from what I was told,” said Cronje.
Mshololo asked why she proceeded with the confession statement, despite being made aware the accused was in detention unlawfully and she said it was because he had a lawyer representing him and he had a desire to speak.
She said she did report to a senior magistrate that it appeared Ntanzi was being detained unlawfully when she handed over the proforma confession statement after taking it, but she conceded it was not within her powers to release Ntanzi.
Ntanzi also made requests to take a bath after complaining about not bathing for eight days and also requested to call his family.
Cronje said she did not do anything about the requests apart from noting them in the proforma confession statement.
Mshololo asked: “So what was the use to say he must feel free to tell you anything and you will be able to assist him?”
Responding, Cronje said: “It was with regards with any irregularity as well as his rights being infringed, but I could not make any arrangements but to bring it to the police attention.”
Cronje also told the court that it was the first time in her experience that she had seen heavily armed police officers accompany an accused to make a confession statement.
She also told the court that the Ekurhuleni Metro Police officers who accompanied Ntanzi, about eight of them, had defied her when she requested their appointment certificates.
She only received two appointment certificates of SA Police Service members who were part of the entourage.
The defence continued to create doubt around attorney Dominic Mjiyakho, who is alleged to have represented Ntanzi at the time of the confession.
Cronje told the court that she did not see Mjiyakho’s mandate to represent Ntanzi.
Cronje said she did not know if Mjiyakho was an advocate or an attorney, but she said he presented a FFC compliance certificate which she did not make a copy of.
Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng asked Cronje to describe Mjiyakho and he was described as a slender built man who wore a neat suit and appeared older than Ntanzi. He had been with Ntanzi for three hours during the confession.
“I did not see any bag on him and I did not see anything on his hands.
“I pertinently addressed him and Mr Ntanzi and asked him who this man was dressed in a suit and he said ‘it is my attorney’.”
Through his defence advocate Thulani Mngomezulu, Ntanzi denied Mjiyakho was his attorney and said he had not signed the proforma confession statements.
Meanwhile, court interpreter Tsephiso Evelyn Motlhaping, who was the principal interpreter who was present for Ntanzi’s confession, said the accused showed no signs of being assaulted and that he signed the confession statements in her presence.
She said Ntanzi wanted to speak.
“My overall impression looking at the demeanour of the suspect, he appeared as someone who really wanted to speak.
“When the rights were explained to him, his specifics words were ngifuna ukukhuluma, I really want to talk,” she said.
Motlhaping became an interpreter in December 1997 was promoted to senior interpreter in 2005 and became the principal interpreter at the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court in 2014.
Motlhaping also told the court Ntanzi never questioned the presence of Mjiyakho. Motlhaping’s testimony has been concluded.