Senzo Meyiwa trial

The Presiding Judge in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial, Ratha Mokgoatlheng. Images: Twitter/@Sli_Masikane.

Judge showing prejudice towards defense in Meyiwa trial – expert

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng has again come under scrutiny for his conduct and rulings during Senzo Meyiwa murder trial.

Senzo Meyiwa trial

The Presiding Judge in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial, Ratha Mokgoatlheng. Images: Twitter/@Sli_Masikane.

For several weeks, social media users have criticised presiding judge in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial Ratha Mokgoatlheng for being too invloved and biased.


These are also the views of legal expert Elton Hart who told Newzroom Afrika that the judge’s conduct and rulings during trial proceedings are concerning.

ALSO READ: ‘Appalling’: Judge’s conduct in Meyiwa trial slammed [watch]

“The judge should now, at some stage, realise that he’s a judicial officer [and] he needs to be impartial and he needs to conduct, because this is something that can be prejudicial to the defense and to the accused persons,” Hart said.

Hart, who is a Law Clinic Attorney at the University of Johannesburg, questioned Judge Mokgoatlheng’s ruling on Monday, 11 September, that a handwritten statement by state witness Constable Sizwe Zungu did not exist.

This was after defence lawyers had challenged the admissibility of a typed statement Zungu made on 31 May, with defence advocate Charles Mnisi arguing that Zungu had “mentioned unequivocally that there is a statement that he wrote and he initialled it”.

ALSO READ: Meyiwa family on trial restarting: ‘We trust Mokgoatlheng’

“Why does he come to the conclusion that there is no handwritten statement while the witness said he made a handwritten statement?

“Now, I think, he’s already saying to us (looking at the trial) that that is a credible witness. He cannot make a crediblity finding like that. It means that these accused in his eyes are already guilty and for me, that is a sign of a judge that is not impartial.

“I’m very worried for the accused that I will see them getting found guilty and not being given a fair trial,” Hart said.

Meyiwa, who was a Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper, was shot and killed at his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo’s family home in Vosloorus on 26 October 2014 in what the State says was a botched robbery.

Senzo Meyiwa trial
The five men accused of the murder of Senzo Meyiwa. Image: Nokwanda Ncwane /The South African

ALSO READ: ‘Tumelo wanted to tell the truth when Senzo died’: Sifiso Meyiwa


Hart also added that the judge has a habit of overriding the defense counsels’ arguments.

“I’ve been seeing this trend [that] when the defense raises an issue, the judge is quick to shut them down… he’s overriding them instead of being cordial.

“Listen to them and actually allow them to speak, not just cut them off because when the prosecutor [Advocate George Baloyi] speaks, he’s not being cut off. He’s being given ample time to eleborate and canvas his points.

“I’m seeing some prejudice, somewhere lurking there from the judge towards the defense and how they cross-examine and how they put their defense across.”

ALSO READ: Meyiwa trial: State witness changes tune during cross-examination


Social media users have been sharing their views about Judge Mokgoatlheng since the trial started de novo in July.

“Why is he always attacking the defense? He’s so kind to Baloyi. Won’t even listen to the defense. He speaks while they speak, won’t allow them to finish speaking, snaps his fingers at everyone as if they are puppies. This judge is rude and condescending!” said one X user.

“Honestly, the only reason the defence is not asking this judge to recuse himself is because they don’t want this trial to start de novo again. This judge is absolutely horrible I’m sorry,” said another user.

ALSO READ: Sifiso Meyiwa accuses Brigadier Gininda of Senzo murder ‘cover-up’

“The judges conduct is shocking! The defence cannot even finish a sentence without the judge interfering,” another commented.

While another said a week ago: “Hopefully @OCJ_RSA is watching #SenzoMeyiwaTrial & their official Judge Ratha. The country is watching. The world is watching. Judge is hostile with defense counsel. He makes inappropriate body & verbal remarks. He interjects defense during cross examination. He leads witnesses.”

On another 1 September, another user wrote: “@OCJ_RSA To the JSC: Judge Ratha Mokgoatleng ‘s conduct in the #SenzoMeyiwaTrial is extremely disturbing. He is impatient and temperamental, repeatedly speaking over the defense counsels.These are professionals who deserve to be treated with respect.Please look into his conduct

On 15 August, another user said: “The #SenzoMeyiwaTrial Judge should be called into order by his colleagues or whoever responsible.He can’t be always interjecting the defense team especially, when bringing out contradictions on statements.