Accused 2, Bongani Ntanzi, had been unlawfully detained at the time he confessed to Magistrate Vivian Cronje three years ago. After Advocate Charles Mnisi and Advocate Zithulele Nxumalo told the court that they had no questions for the witness, fifth accused’s legal counsel Advocate Zandile Mshololo, on Monday morning, grilled Cronje on the discrepancies in the confession statement as she tried to argue for the inadmissibility of the statement.
She grilled Cronje on why she continued to take a confession from Ntanzi on the 24th of June 2020, after he had not appeared before a court within 48 hours following his 16 June 2020 arrest.
Reading from the confession statement, Cronje says she picked up that Ntanzi was aware of his constitutional rights.
“I was arrested on the 16th of June, and I didn’t understand what was going on. Because I was arrested, I was supposed to have appeared in court,” read Cronje in part from the confession statement.
“So, I decided to come to court, I contacted my lawyer and asked him that we come to court.”
Cronje says it was not up to her to release Ntanzi from custody based on this irregularity, and that she continued to take down his confession under the circumstances because she had at the time only heard Ntanzi’s side of the story.
Mshololo: Why did you proceed with someone who was in an unlawful detention?
Cronje: He was represented at that time and he was saying something that was coming from him. At that time, I also did not deem it necessary to bring the process to a halt and not continue.
She says she noted the irregularity down and alerted her seniors of it.
In opening her cross-examination of the witness, Mshololo interrogated Cronje on the presence of armed police officers outside the room in which the confession took place when she first arrived at the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court.
Cronje says while it was nothing unusual for the metro police officers to transport a person seeking to make a confession, she could not say if there had been previous instance in the past where the officers were armed as they appeared on that day.
“This was the first time I had had to come from outside for a confession. Normally, I would be in the office and the person would be brought to me, but the officer accompanying the person would come into the office with the person. I wouldn’t know what the situation would be like outside.”
Asked about the man wearing a suit who she says introduced himself as Dominic Mjiyako, the suspect’s lawyer, Cronje says she did not check whether he was practicing attorney and that she did not ask for a written mandate for him to be there.
Advocate Thulani Mngomezulu last week put to Cronje that Ntanzi did not know who the man was and that he was not legally represented throughout the process.
Cronje denied this and the interpreter who was in the same room, Tshepiso Motlhaping, who followed Cronje on the witness stand, has corroborated her colleague saying Ntanzi had confirmed that Mjiyako was his legal representative.
Motlhaping who has also concluded her testimony, says she is the one who handed Ntanzi the pen he used to sign the confession statement at the end of the process.
She appeared comfortable on the witness stand, insisted she’d testify standing, and sounded very fluent in English while she also told the court she was able to speak Sesotho, Sepedi, Isizulu, among other languages.
She says in 26 years as an interpreter at different levels, her work has never been taken on review.
She says Ntanzi said he really wanted to talk and didn’t appear to be under any sort of influence as contended by the defense, and he had never queried the presence of Mjiyako whom he has now denied knowing.
“Cha sis ngifun’ukuqhubeka ngikhulume” loosely translated, “No ma’m, I really want to speak.”
— Sipho King K Kekana (@KingKAzania) October 23, 2023
The high court in Pretoria is hearing arguments on the admissibility of confession statements, pointings-outs as well warning statement during a trial within a trial and is expected to make ruling at the end of the arguments before the main trial continues.
In 2020, Muzi Sibiya, Bongani Sandiso Ntanzi, Mthobisi Prince Mncube, Mthokoziseni Ziphozonke Maphisa, and Fisokuhle Ntuli were arrested and charged with Meyiwa’s murder, attempted murder of other witnesses, robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession of ammunition.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The trial continues.