/ 5 December 2003

Mona granted respite from Hefer perjury charges

Former City Press editor Vusi Mona on Friday was granted a respite from impending perjury charges for allegedly lying to the Hefer commission.

Commission evidence leader Kessie Naidu recommended that former judge Joos Hefer referred Mona to the provincial director of public prosecutions to consider such charges.

However, Naidu said, Hefer did not have to decide before all evidence had been heard and all parties had the opportunity to react.

Mona could not attend Friday’s hearing due to a bereavement in his family, Naidu said.

A legal submission on his behalf was nevertheless handed to the commission.

In the submission Advocate Jaap Roestorf argued that the commission was not empowered to rule at this stage on Naidu’s recommendation.

Hefer’s finding on Mona’s credibility should rather be reserved for inclusion in his final report to President Thabo Mbeki.

Roestorf further maintained that the commission proceedings should not be used to ”belittle” any person testifying before it.

Naidu outlined in his submission four alleged untruths spoken by Mona in his earlier testimony. All related to a confidential briefing that National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka had held in July with a group of editors.

Mona complained several weeks later about the briefing to the public protector, among others. He alleged that Ngcuka made racist remarks and used the meeting to commit ”vitriolic character assassination” on a number of people.

Naidu took issue on Friday with Mona’s declaration that senior editorial staff at the City Press agreed with him to publicise the details of the confidential briefing.

Naidu further accused Mona of lying when saying he believed that he was entitled to use the information given at the briefing. This was provided he did not disclose Ngcuka as its source, Mona had testified.

Naidu also pointed out the inconsistency between an earlier editorial by Mona and his later complaint about the off-the-record briefing. In the editorial, which appeared days after the briefing, Mona praised Ngcuka for his good work and ”fierce independence”.

However, in the later complaint he described the chief prosecutor as a racist who acted unconstitutionally and abused his office.

When Naidu cross-examined Mona, he eventually admitted that he was wrong to earlier deny the inconsistency.

Mona also denied that he was the author of an anonymous document — circulated in the media — on what had happened at the off-the-record briefing. There were striking similarities between this document and Mona’s later complaint to the public protector.

Naidu said on Friday his denial of authorship was so overwhelmingly improbably that it must be rejected as false. — Sapa

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