The second application to postpone former Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head Robert McBride’s Zondo commission testimony has laid bare the administrative hurdles the commission of inquiry into state capture has to clear in its attempts to meet a looming deadline.
On Monday, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo begrudgingly okayed the postponement of McBride’s testimony for the same reason it had been delayed in February: the failure of the commission’s legal team to notify parties implicated by McBride.
The commission’s regulations require that notices be sent to people implicated by witness statements in advance of oral testimony.
Zondo called this “unacceptable”. “When Mr McBride’s statement was available last time, I was advised that it was complete … and now we have to postpone his evidence again,” Zondo said.
He added that he appreciates the pressure the legal team is under, but said “there is simply no excuse” for notices not being sent out.
“I hope this experience will result in measures being put in place to make sure that this does not happen. This commission does not have a lot of time to finish its work within the time prescribed. We need every hour and every minute,” Zondo said.
The commission has until March next year to finish its work and should ideally finish hearing oral testimony by the end of this year.
Head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC, took responsibility for the error, but also noted the mounting logistical and administrative challenges faced by an under-capacitated team.
The commission is looking towards increasing its legal team in the next few weeks, Pretorius revealed on Monday.
The need to increase the commission’s numbers is seemingly urgent. McBride alone has reportedly implicated between 30 and 50 people. According to Pretorius, between him and former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen, approximately 100 people will be implicated.
McBride’s reportedly exhaustive testimony — which the Mail & Guardian understands is backed up by more than 2 000 pages of evidence in the form of recordings and documents — comes shortly after former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi made his second appearance before the commission.
Agrizzi’s first nine-day testimony implicated over 30 people in allegations of fraud, corruption and money laundering.
On top of the apparent backlog in sending out notices to implicated parties, the commission still has to carve out time for its witnesses to be cross-examined. Only two witnesses — former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas — have been cross-examined by implicated parties.
The commission has already had over 40 witnesses, some of whom may not be cross-examined. It has been at pains to uphold the rights of implicated parties to make representations to the commission.
Zondo emphasised this on Monday stating: “The rights of implicated persons are important… we will do all we can to respect their rights. Where mistakes have happened, it is important that responsibility be taken and that steps be taken that there is no repeat,” he said, referring to the commission’s failure to notify those implicated by McBride.
Though some implicated parties have opted not to voluntarily present their versions of events to the commission, it is likely a number of them will. There is also the likelihood that the commission will summon certain individuals implicated in allegations of state capture.
It is difficult to see how the commission will be able to fit all this in within its relatively limited time. For now, it is clear that the people tasked with keeping the commission on track are doing double duty attending to the mountains of work ahead of them.