Focus on witness protection
Incidents during Commission of Inquiry into State Capture raise concerns for those giving evidence
THE jury is still out on how provisions will be made to protect individuals testifying in the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture against intimidation or threats.
When the commission resumes on Monday, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will be expected to delve into the finer details of what processes will be pursued in shielding those who have given explosive testimony thus far.
Yesterday, acting Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) director-general Phumla Williams told the inquiry that her predecessor, Mzwanele Manyi, had tried to intimidate her.
This comes after former MP Vytjie Mentor said she was fearful of her safety after her hotel room was allegedly tampered with.
Williams, on the second day of her testimony, shocked everyone when she said Manyi had sent her a text her while she was still on the witness stand, a revelation which Manyi has since played down.
The former Black Business Council head of policy and recently owner of the Afro Worldview TV news channel, which was closed last month, took to Twitter to clarify why he had promptly sent Williams a message.
“Just so it’s clear. Phumla was relating the changes I brought into GCIS. In the same breath, she mentions the TNA/ SABC breakfast which in my view created the impression that I was somehow part of that. So I sent her a text for her to clarify that this happened after my era,” he tweeted.
But the clarification by Manyi was too late as Justice Zondo had already instructed the commission’s legal team to follow up the matter and possibly summon Manyi to shed light on the text message in which he told Williams to point out that The New Age and SABC business breakfasts deal was not signed during his tenure as GCIS head and government spokesperson.
Zondo, who is chairing the commission, said if witnesses were being intimidated or interfered with then this must be looked into.
Head of the commission’s legal team Paul Pretorius said Manyi’s text was an offence and that the man, formerly known as Jimmy, would be summonsed to appear before Zondo.
Advocate Kate Hofmeyr, who is part of the commission’s legal team, said a National Treasury official would testify that R55 million had been spent on the business breakfasts between 2011 and this year.
Williams said the GCIS’s supply chain management division had been bullied into backing the business breakfasts despite its opposition to them as it felt that they should have been put to the market and the contract awarded to the best bidder.
The millions for the business breakfasts were paid to the Guptas’ The New Age newspaper and the 24-hour TV news channel ANN7.
Williams also revealed that she had had a difficult working relationship with former communications minister Faith Muthambi, who demanded that she be addressed as “honourable minister”.
According to Williams, Muthambi complained about spelling errors in correspondence between the two.
The embattled Muthambi apparently also told Williams that she was unhappy with the service her office was receiving from Williams and complained about her professionalism.
Williams said she had told former president Jacob Zuma about Muthambi’s behaviour, but he laughed about it.
She was forced to pay R35 000 and had her salary adjusted to a lower level after she was demoted while on leave.
She was replaced by Donald Diphoko as GCIS director-general but cabinet secretary and the Presidency’s director-general Dr Cassius Lubisi intervened and asked her to remain as government spokesperson.
Williams complained about the salary issue to the Public Service Commission, but Muthambi never implemented its ruling that she be compensated. She said Muthambi’s tenure had led to low staff morale.
Williams continues her testimony on Monday.
Acting government communications spokesperson Phumla Williams testifies at the state capture inquiry. She replaced Mzwanyele Manyi, who left GCIS a year after he was appointed to replace Themba Maseko. |