Arrest of advocate Teffo in court ‘showed disrespect for the judiciary’ – Chief Justice Raymond Zondo

  • Raymond Zondo condemned the manner in which Malesela Teffo was arrested last week.
  • Teffo was arrested in court shortly after the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial had adjourned. 
  • Zondo said an officer of the court was arrested in a manner that showed disrespect for the judiciary.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Tuesday condemned the manner in which advocate Malesela Teffo was arrested last week.

Zondo said the arrest of anybody, let alone a legal practitioner, inside a courtroom was completely unacceptable and “showed disrespect for the judiciary”.

He said:

There was no justifiable reason why the police could not have waited for advocate Teffo to leave the courtroom and the court premises before they could arrest him. After all, as I understand the position, the warrant of arrest had been issued about two months earlier and, waiting until Teffo had left the court premises, would not have made any difference.

“The conduct of the SAPS in effecting the arrest inside the courtroom and the manner in which the arrest was effected on a legal practitioner and, therefore, on an officer of the court, was an assault on the dignity of the court and the judiciary.”

He said he was not commenting on whether Teffo should have been arrested or not, but the place and manner in which it was executed.

Teffo, who is representing four of the men accused of murdering Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa, was arrested on Thursday afternoon at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

He was cuffed and taken down to the court’s holding cells moments after the Meyiwa murder trial was postponed. The arrest was made in full view of the media.

The warrant of arrest, authorised by the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court, was executed after Teffo allegedly failed to appear in court for a separate case in which he is an accused.

The warrant was issued, signed and stamped on 27 January 2022 after he allegedly did not appear in court for an assault case.

He made a brief appearance last week Friday, where he was granted R10 000 bail.

READ | Was advocate Malesela Teffo caught out in a lie regarding his arrest warrant?

Zondo said section 165(4) of the Constitution placed an obligation on all organs of state, including the SAPS, through legislative and other measures, to “assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts”.

In a statement by police last week Friday, it said the intention was to execute the warrant of arrest for Teffo outside the courtroom, but the manner in which the events unfolded made it challenging for the team.

The police said that, according to the investigating officer, he had approached the advocate as he was heading towards the court door. After telling him about the execution of the warrant of arrest and informing him of his rights, the advocate “went back into the courtroom”.

“Advocate Teffo did not cooperate with the investigating officer, which warranted the call for the assistance of the Tactical Response Team members, who were already posted in the same court for escort duties. Police have a responsibility to arrest a suspect in order to secure his/her attendance in court,” it said.

Police maintained that the execution of the warrant of arrest in this instance was the initiative of the investigating officer, in consultation with his commander, which forms part of the members’ daily duties.