Treasury’s chief procurement officer Willie Mathebula will be the first witness to testify at the commission of inquiry into state capture, sitting in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
The inquiry is investigating allegations of undue influence by the politically-connected Gupta family on members of the executive and at state-owned entities.
The commission has confirmed the names of at least eight witnesses who will be called to testify during the first sitting of the public hearings that are expected go on for three to six weeks, depending on evidence led.
The witness list includes Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) chief executive Themba Maseko, current acting GCIS chief executive Phumla Williams and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.
Nene and Gordhan were both fired by former president Jacob Zuma as finance ministers in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
New Age advertising allegations
While journalists and some of the country’s best legal minds were in attendance on the first day of the commission of inquiry, there was a low turnout of ordinary members of the public.
Zuma is represented by senior counsel Muzi Sikhakhane on statements related to Maseko, Mentor and Williams.
Maseko was the first to directly implicate Zuma when he said that the former president called him and asked him to help the Guptas who wanted government advertising channelled to their newspaper, The New Age.
Lakela Kaunda, who was the chief operating officer at the Presidency during Zuma’s tenure and a trusted ally, has also hired senior counsel to represent her at the commission.
It is understood that Kaunda sought representation after Mentor claimed in her statement to the commission that it was Kaunda who arranged her 2010 meeting at the Gupta mansion in Saxonwold. Her lawyer is expected to rebut the claims.
122 boxes of evidence
Mentor said during the meeting she was offered the position of public enterprises minister in return for dropping the lucrative South African Airways (SAA) route to India for the benefit of the Gupta’s airline.
The eldest of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, is being represented by Michael Hellens, who led the charge of complaints against the commission and said they were not given adequate time to prepare for cross-examination.
Hellens is, however, only representing Ajay on allegations made by Maseko and Mentor.
The Gauteng high court has given an order allowing for the inquiry to sit for at least two years, from March 1 2018. The commission is facing the daunting task of sifting through at least 122 boxes of evidence. Reports that form part of the inquiry include parliamentary probes into the SABC, Denel, Transnet and SAA. — News24