Teffo, the defense lawyer for the men accused of killing Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, was arrested on Thursday after proceedings in Meyiwa’s murder trial were adjourned at the High Court in Pretoria. Photo: Kgomotso Medupe
Activists are adamant that there is a greater disregard for the law at stake in the arrest of Malesela Daniel Teffo than the Minister of Police and the President need to explain.
Teffo, the defense lawyer for the men accused of killing Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, was arrested on Thursday after proceedings in Meyiwa’s murder trial were adjourned at the High Court in Pretoria.
An investigator, who identified himself as Masungwini, told Teffo that he obtained an arrest warrant after he (Teffo) failed to appear in court on January 22.
Lawyer and political and human rights activist Mary de Haas expressed grave concern about the detention of a lawyer and the safety of witnesses in the case.
READ: Drama in Meyiwa murder trial as defense attorney arrested
“As we know, the witnesses have already been beaten in the cells. I’m afraid that if they arrest and detain Teffo, they’ll use him as a way to hurt him, and maybe even get him killed, because he’s deeply unpopular with the police leadership because he wins lawsuits from members who have been wrongfully fired.
De Haas added that Teffo was also unpopular with Police Minister Bheki Cele.
She wondered about the time of her arrest.
It just seems crazy to stop him in the middle of a High Court case when he’s not going to suddenly disappear in the middle of proceedings. We want to know why they suddenly want to bring it in at this time.
She said she received a communication from Teffo stating that the arrest warrant was fraudulent and that he was being released.
“I don’t know why they would come and make the arrest now, unless they’re desperate to get Teffo out of the way. This is not a good reflection on justice.
However, I just want to point out that this is how the police behave and want to act as if they are above the law. This is frightening for all of South Africa and the criminal justice system. We should sit down and pay attention.
Meanwhile, social worker and whistleblower lawyer John Clarke said it seemed suspicious that Teffo was facing retaliation for speaking out about failings in the criminal justice system.
“It seems like a spectacular own goal for these officers to arrest him in such a publicity and high profile case. He suggested they did not have confidence in their case against the five defendants. I’m not one to judge the outcome of a rigorous, fair, and proper trial, but that’s what the court system is for — rigorous, ruthless cross-examination and effective representation of the facts.
Clarke said Teffo has faced a lot of criticism for the way he has performed as a defender.
“The judge in this trial must be pulling his hair out over this utter disregard for the judicial process – the irony that Teffo is supposed to be arrested for contempt of court. Justice delayed is justice denied and what we saw yesterday was tragic delay and compounded injustice.
READ: Trial of Senzo Meyiwa | State’s attorney calls for an end to hypothetical interrogations
On Thursday evening, Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, tweeted that Cele had requested a full report from the National Commissioner on Teffo’s arrest, including how it took place.