#StateCaptureInquiry: Manyi’s back

Former GCIS head, Mzwanele Manyi. (David Harrison/M&G)

Former GCIS head, Mzwanele Manyi. (David Harrison/M&G)

The commission of inquiry into state capture continues on Monday, with former Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) head Mzwanele Manyi expected to testify.

Manyi has already testified before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — where he turned the tables on acting GCIS chief executive Phumla Williams by accusing her of enabling large-scale corruption.

READ MORE: Manyi says corruption happened under Phumla Williams’ watch

Though the controversial businessman was only scheduled to give his testimony on November 23, he made an unexpected appearance a week prior — saying that he had received correspondence saying there is an opening for him to appear on an earlier date.

The commission’s legal team said it had not yet prepared for Manyi’s testimony, but he was allowed to give his evidence anyway.

The focus of his testimony was the “dramatic changes” he made when he took over at GCIS in early 2011 which he said did not sit well with Williams.

Williams gave her testimony in August. After a short adjournment in one of the sessions, she 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 former president Jacob 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.

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 when he was appointed.

According to Williams, 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.

After the SMS incident, the head of the commission’s legal team Paul Pretorius SC said the “several communications of Mr Manyi” to participants in the commission would be collated and presented to Zondo. Pretorius added that Manyi ought to be summoned. Manyi has reiterated his willingness to give his evidence before the commission.

During his impromptu appearance, Manyi told the commission that he decided to keep Williams on as the chair of the bid adjudication committee because there were no complaints against her. It became apparent to him, however, that something went “horribly wrong in the procurement process” with service providers that were not being screened.

According to Manyi, the irregular tenders ended up costing the government over R7-million.

Manyi said he immediately asked national treasury to conduct an in-depth investigation into the tenders with these service providers. Treasury found that there were indeed irregularities such as how one of the service providers was registered as a company days before being put in the GCIS system for tenders, Manyi said. An amount of R26-million was allegedly paid to this company within days of being entered into the system which Manyi alleged was signed off by Williams.Manyi added the investigation found that Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) paid R64-million to a service provider for work that was not done for GCIS. 

Treasury reportedly found that splitting of invoices — so as not to raise its attention to exorbitant costs — was a common practice at GCIS.

Similar allegations have been made against Williams by Manyi’s successor, Donald Liphoko, whom she also implicated in her testimony. In October it emerged that Liphoko had opened a corruption case against Williams, based on the alleged 2011 StatsSA deal.

StatsSA reportedly gave GCIS R24.7-million between October 2010 and March 2011.

Manyi told the commission that based on treasury’s findings regarding alleged irregular procurement, he dismantled the bid committee. He said corruption was happening under the watch of Williams’ and other committee members, despite Williams describing her team as competent and committed.

In addition to implicating Williams, Manyi was at pains to distance himself from alleged irregularities, emphasising several times that they had happened before he came on board.

“These are things that happened in January before I arrived. Every rule that could be broken was broken. It was a monumental disaster,” he said. Before hearing from Manyi on Monday, the commission will also hear the testimony of treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda. Macanda’s testimony forms the final part of a series of evidence from treasury officials.

In the second half of last week, the commission heard from former and current treasury directors general, Lungisa Fuzile and Dondo Mogajane.

READ MORE: Van Rooyen did not know his advisers’ — treasury DG

Both recalled the events following Nhlanhla Nene’s dismissal as finance minister in December 2015. The four-day tenure of Des van Rooyen as Nene’s successor was the focus of their testimonies.

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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