#StateCaptureInquiry: Ajay Gupta to apply to cross-examine witnesses

Ajay Gupta (centre) (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Ajay Gupta (centre) (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Counsel for Ajay Gupta said on Monday that the Gupta patriarch intends to apply for leave to cross-examine witnesses who have implicated him in their testimonies before the state capture inquiry.

This despite the possibility that the commission’s chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, may still impose conditions, which could compel the Gupta brother to take the stand himself.

On Monday, advocate Vincent Maleka SC of the commission’s legal team, argued that the commission ought to impose this condition. Those wishing to cross-examine must be willing to take the witness stand themselves, Maleka said.

READ MORE: Zondo could force Zuma, Guptas to appear before the commission

Maleka asked that Zondo consider rule 3.6 of the Commissions Act, which allows the commission’s chair to place conditions on those seeking to cross examine, adding that those seeking to cross examine a witness “put forward a version that can be tested”. The request from the legal team followed the bombshell testimony of former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas on Friday and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor’s appearance before the commission on Monday.

Statements from both Jonas and Mentor implicate Ajay Gupta as having offered them positions in former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet, as the minister of finance and the minister of public enterprises respectively. Their statements also suggest that Zuma was privy to these meetings.

Monday’s session ended on the promise that the issue of the applications would be revisited on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday, the commission was attended by counsel for Ajay Gupta, Mike Hellens SC, and counsel for Jacob Zuma, Muzi Sikhakhane SC.

Last week Hellens told the commission that he was appearing on behalf of Gupta patriarch Ajay, regarding the testimonies of Mentor and former head of Government Communication and Information Systems Themba Maseko.

Maseko has alleged that he received a phone call from Zuma in 2010, asking him to aid the Gupta brothers with placing government advertisements in the formerly Gupta-owned newspaper, The New Age.

READ MORE: #StateCaptureInquiry: Mentor was too scared to meet with Zuma in China

Maseko is expected to appear before commission on Friday, but on Monday he suggested that he could end up taking the stand on Wednesday. He wrote in a tweet: “There’s a great possibility that my appearance before the #ZondoCommission may be brought forward to Wednesday 29th. I will know for certain tomorrow. I’m ready.”

Tuesday’s session was supposed to start at 9.30am, but was delayed as Zondo met with counsel and the commission’s legal team in his chambers.

The session started with a discussion of those applications that had already been made to be granted leave to cross-examine witnesses. Zondo said he had so far only received three substantive applications.

It had emerged on Monday that former presidential aide Lakela Kaunda and Major General Zinhle Mnonopi had applied for leave to make cross-examinations.Kaunda was implicated in Mentor’s testimony as having facilitated the meeting between her and the Guptas. In his testimony, Jonas said Mnonopi had tried to get him to sign a false affidavit to foil the Gupta investigation into the alleged Gupta bribe.

A Hawks official, who had introduced himself to Mentor only as “Captain Mtolo”, had also made an application regarding Mentor’s statement. Though on Monday, Mentor had redacted his name from her statement.

The decisions on all three applications were deferred by Zondo, pending additional supporting information which the chair deemed necessary.

Zondo pointed out that the legal team had also received an application from controversial arms deal adviser Fana Hlongwane, which he had yet to review. 

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit both subs and writes for the Mail & Guardian. She joined the M&G after completing her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cape Town. She is interested in the literature of the contemporary black diaspora and its intersection with queer aesthetics of solidarity. Her recent work considers the connections between South African literary history and literature from the rest of the Continent. Read more from Sarah Smit

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