/ 31 August 2018

#StateCaptureInquiry: ‘Manyi should be summoned’

Rajesh Sundaram claims Jacob Zuma suggested that the Guptas should consider then government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi as a talk show host on the channel.
Former GCIS head Mzwanele Manyi. (Gallo)

Mzwanele Manyi could be summoned by the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. This after it emerged on Friday that the self-proclaimed Zuma loyalist had reached out to several witnesses testifying at the commission.

The suggestion was made by the head of the commission’s legal team, Advocate Paul Pretorius SC, following the first sitting of acting head of Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) Phumla Williams’ bombshell testimony.

Williams was asked by the commission — headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — to recount the events following Themba Maseko’s termination as director general of GCIS. Maseko was unceremoniously removed from the position at the beginning of 2011 and replaced by Manyi.

In his testimony this week, Maseko recounted how on January 31 2011, he had met with Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane who said he had received a phone call from then president Jacob Zuma asking to have Maseko redeployed. Maseko told the commission that Chabane, made it very clear though he did not agree with the decision to remove him from his post at GCIS, but told Maseko he had to do “as his boss had instructed him”.

Zuma, who was out of the country at the time, is alleged to have said that by the time he returned to South Africa he wanted Maseko out of GCIS.

Maseko’s testimony detailed how prior to his termination, he allegedly received a phone call from Zuma in 2010, asking him to aid the Gupta brothers with placing government advertisements in Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper.

After a short adjournment in Friday’s session, Williams revealed that Manyi had sent her an SMS asking her to tell the commission that the infamous The New Age (TNA) business breakfasts did not happen during his time at the helm of GCIS.

The breakfasts, which featured political heavyweights including Zuma, were broadcast live by the SABC at no cost to TNA.

Prior to the adjournment, Williams had relayed how the GCIS’s media buying division was “bullied” into participating in these breakfasts. Williams said this only came to her attention when she was interviewed by the Hawks.

In August 2017, a company owned by Manyi forked out R450-million to buy TNA Media and ANN7 from Gupta-owned firm Oakbay.

Though Williams did not tell the commission Manyi was directly involved in the setting up of these TNA breakfasts, she preempted her account of the breakfasts by telling the commission about the changes Manyi made to the media buying processes of GCIS after he took over from Maseko.

Under Manyi’s leadership, tender processing was to be signed off by him and not the bid adjudication committee. Manyi also demanded that the media buying division report directly to him, Williams said.

“Mr Manyi removed the internal audit which was reporting in my division and suggested that the internal audit must report to him directly,” Williams said.

After it had emerged that Manyi had reached out to Williams, Manyi tweeted: “Just so it’s clear. Phumla was relating the changes I brought into GCIS. In the same breath she mentions TNA/SABC breakfast which in my view created the impression that I was somehow part of that. So I sent her a text for her to clarify that this happened after my era.”

Attached to the tweet is a screenshot of the SMS he allegedly sent to Williams.

Following Williams’ testimony on Friday, Pretorius told the commission that the “several communications of Mr Manyi” to participants in the commission would be collated and presented to Zondo.

As per the commission’s regulations, “it is an offence to prejudice the inquiry and its proceedings,” Pretorius noted. Pretorius suggested that Zondo consider summoning Manyi to the commission so that he can answer for his conduct.

Zondo concluded the session by asking the legal team to provide him with the relevant documentation to inform his decision on possibly summonsing Manyi.

Williams will continue giving her testimony on Monday.

None of those implicated in Williams’s testimony have applied for leave to cross-examine her. But Advocate Kate Hofmeyr, who led Williams’ testimony, announced at the start of the session that Manyi had asked for accreditation to attend the inquiry, a request that Zondo admitted to not understanding considering any member of the public is welcome to attend.