Fo­cus on wit­ness pro­tec­tion

In­ci­dents dur­ing Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into State Cap­ture raise con­cerns for those giv­ing ev­i­dence

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NATION - LOYISO SIDIMBA

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. |

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