#StateCaptureInquiry: Zondo to hear applications to cross-examine

The commission of inquiry into state capture will hear applications made by the Guptas and Duduzani Zuma to cross-examine its witnesses on Thursday.

The commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has heard testimony from former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, former government communications (GCIS) director general Themba Maseko and acting GCIS head Phumla Williams.

On Monday it was confirmed that Gupta patriarch, Ajay and his brother, Rajesh, had applied for leave to cross-examine witnesses. It also emerged that former president Jacob Zuma had elected not to apply, but that his son, Duduzani, had.

READ MORE: Counsel for Ajay Gupta confirms application to cross examine Mentor, Maseko

In a letter to the commission, sourced by The Sunday Times, the former president’s lawyers wrote: “We are satisfied that nothing in the aforementioned witnesses’ statements implicates or may implicate our client in the infringement of the aforementioned statutes‚ policies of government and relevant ethical codes.”

Counsel for controversial arms deal adviser Fana Hlongwane, Jaap Cilliers SC, will also present argument as to why his client should be granted leave to cross-examine on Thursday.

Jonas’s testimony before the commission suggested that Hlongwane co-ordinated a clandestine meeting between him and Ajay Gupta at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold in 2015, during which Jonas was offered a R600-million bribe and a position in Zuma’s Cabinet in exchange for his cooperation at Treasury by his host.

Former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown also made a surprise application for cross-examination. Brown had not received notice that she might be implicated and her name was only tentatively attached to Mentor’s testimony: Mentor was allegedly offered the position of public enterprises minister by Ajay Gupta, before Barbara Hogan was replaced by Brown.

Former presidential aide Lakela Kaunda, as well as two Hawks officials — Advocate Mandla Mtolo and Major General Zinhle Mnonopi — have also applied to cross-examine.

Elements of Kaunda’s and Mtolo’s affidavits to the commission were ventilated during Mentor’s testimony. Kaunda denied that she had co-ordinated the meeting between Mentor and Ajay and Mtolo denied that he had corrupted her police statement attached to a 2016 complaint she had made against the Guptas.

Mnonopi, who was implicated in Jonas’s testimony as allegedly having attempted to foil an investigation into the Gupta bribe, was suspended last Thursday.

Advocate for the Hawks Vincent Siwela assured the Mail & Guardian last week that all his clients, including Mnonopi, deny the allegations made against them at the commission.

Though Williams implicated former communications minister Faith Muthambi and Gupta-linked media owner Mzwanele Manyi in her testimony, neither will present their applications to cross-examine on Thursday.

On Monday Advocate Kate Hofmeyr, who led Williams’ testimony, indicated that the commission has yet to receive any such applications from those implicated by Williams.

In an affidavit to the commission, seen by the M&G, Manyi said he intends to make the application but is still in the process of compiling documentary evidence he has requested from GCIS.

On Thursday Zondo will hear the applications of those implicated, which he will consider in his decision whether or not to grant leave to cross-examine.

According to the the commission’s regulations, “there is no right to cross-examine a witness before the Commission but the Chairperson may permit cross-examination should he deem it necessary and in the best interests of the work of the Commission to do so”.

As the chair of the commission, Zondo is also expected to make a decision whether or not attach conditions to leave to cross-examine. Zondo indicated last week that he was considering attaching a time limit to the cross-examinations.

Last week Advocate Vincent Maleka SC, of the commission’s legal team, argued that Zondo ought to impose conditions on the privilege to cross-examine witnesses that would require implicated persons to take the witness stand themselves.

“There can be no doubt about the desirability that if people are going to cross-examine they should really be prepared to take the witness stand and give evidence… But whether or not this goes as far as to compel that they must make that choice upfront. I am not sure, it might be something that needs argument,” Zondo responded.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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