The Zondo commission's lifespan has been extended for a fifth time, for another three months. (Gulshan Khan/AFP)
Anyone who leaks or publishes witness statements submitted to the commission of inquiry into state capture could face prison time, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo warned on Thursday.
In a media statement, the chairperson of the inquiry decried the dissemination and publication of witness statements sent to the commission well before the testimonies of the witnesses in question.
Zondo noted the leaking of statements penned by former minister Barbara Hogan and Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan at the beginning of the week as being particularly concerning. Both Hogan and Gordhan have yet to give their evidence before the commission.
A number of media publications ran articles based on the leaked affidavits, from as early as Monday.
The Mail & Guardian published two stories directly referencing the affidavits on Friday.
An investigation is to be conducted to try and establish the people responsible for the leaks, Zondo said — emphasising that the dissemination and publication of the documents is a contravention of the commission’s regulations.
According to the regulations, no person shall disseminate or publish any document submitted to the Commission without the written permission Zondo himself.Anyone who contravenes this regulation by disseminating or publishing witness statements guilty of an offence and will either have to pay a fine or be imprisoned for no more than 12 months.“These regulations make it clear that it is a criminal offence for anyone — and that includes the media — to disseminate or publish, without the written permission of the chairperson, any document (which includes witnesses’ statements) submitted to the commission by any person in connection with the commission’s inquiry,” the statement reads.The media can only publish a witness statement once the witness has given evidence in public before the commission, he said.
Zondo urged the media to observe the regulations and “desist from disseminating or publishing witnesses’ statements or portions thereof before the witnesses have given evidence at a hearing of the commission unless the Chairperson’s written permission has been obtained”.
“I, therefore, trust that, in support of the work of the Commission, all media houses, journalists, commentators, analysts and the public at large will not act in breach of the Regulations and will show respect for the processes of the Commission,” the statement reads.
Zondo’s plea to the media comes after Gordhan complained that his affidavit had been “inexplicably leaked to the media”.
On Thursday morning, Gordhan released a statement protesting the fact that his ministry had received numerous enquiries from the media in light of the leak.