Ajay Gupta barred from cross-examining Trevor Manuel

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has denied Ajay Gupta leave to cross-examine former finance minister Trevor Manuel about his upcoming testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Manuel is expected to give evidence relating to Fikile Mbalula’s 2010 appointment as sports minister, which Manuel has publicly suggested the controversial Gupta brothers had influence over.

On Tuesday, Mike Hellens SC — counsel for Ajay Gupta — made an application to the commission. Geoff Budlender SC appeared on Manuel’s behalf.

In a 2017 open letter published in the Daily Maverick, Manuel alleged that Mbalula made a tearful confession in front of a national executive committee meeting about his interaction with Atul Gupta, who allegedly knew he would be sports minister before he did.

Hellens told the commission that Atul Gupta, Ajay’s brother, received notice that he would be implicated in Manuel’s testimony. It was Ajay however, who decided to make the application as Mbalula has since alleged that it was actually the Gupta patriarch who congratulated him about his appointment.

READ MORE: Zondo denies Guptas leave to cross-examine

The Guptas have previously been denied leave to cross-examine based on their refusal to appear before the commission in South Africa. However, they had indicated their willingness to testify via video call or at another agreed upon location.

Hellens reiterated his previous stance that the Guptas have been subjected to unfair and reckless investigations by the Hawks the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), referring to the provisional withdrawal of charges relating to the Estina Dairy scandal.

He reiterated his argument that the findings of the commission will be found wanting if the evidence before it is not properly tested.

“No one has been cross-examined … You have not tested the validity of that evidence and your finding will be a limping one,” Hellens said.

Budlender echoed Zondo’s previous rejection of the Guptas’ position that they had a valid reason not to return to the country. When he delivered his decision relating to the Guptas’ first application, Zondo maintained that if the Guptas are in fact subjected to incompetent authorities, they will be saved by an independent judiciary.

“This is a weaker application than the previous one,” Budlender said.

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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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