South Africa

Days of Zondo

New data captured from hard drives may introduce new names, information, to State Capture Commission

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo presides over the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture at Parktown on August 20, 2018 (Photo by Deaan Vivier/Netwerk24/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

New unseen data recovered from the hard drives containing the leaked Gupta emails has been received by the State Capture Commission and will be used by investigators and the legal team presenting evidence before chairman, Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo.

The new material was uncovered during a recent expert dive into the original cloned hard drive that resulted in an astonishing 99.9 % recovery of material by an international expert.

It is at this stage unclear whether this new material presents new names, new deals and how much more evidence of corrupt relationships between the Guptas and public officials it may shed light on.

But, its acceptance by the Commission along with the original #Guptaleaks is a massively significant development.

Lawyers for the Commission brought an application for the #Guptaleaks to be admitted as evidence on Thursday and sought to also include the new material which is yet to be analysed.

The team amended their application overnight to seek a ruling for the “receipt” of the material – including the newly uncovered data – instead of its admission as would be required in normal court proceedings.

This is because the Commission is governed by different rules and is not bound by the rules of evidence required in civil or criminal proceedings.

This allows for the State Capture inquiry to receive any evidence relevant to its mandate.

The Commission’s advocate Kate Hofmeyr presented further argument about the importance of the Commission publicly acknowledging receipt of the new information on Friday morning.

The Commission, she said, is a public inquiry and as such, it was important, where possible for it to make known to the public that the Commission had accessed this crucial data and had taken extreme efforts to secure and preserve it.

There may well be people implicated. We need to tell the public this is what we have and that the material will inform our investigations going forward.”

Embracing the #Guptaleaks is not “fanciful” and must be included in the line of investigation into State Capture being pursued by the Commission, Hofmeyr said.

Justice Zondo agreed and granted a ruling that the original hard drive containing the #Guptaleaks, an initial forensic mirror copy thereof as well as the extended third version be received into evidence.

The ruling bars anyone from accessing the new material until it is presented by the legal team at a public sitting of the Commission where it may be used as evidence or to cross examine witnesses or implicated parties.

Individuals implicated are usually served with a notice to that effect when they are provided with the allegations to enable them to respond.

But for now, anyone likely to be further implicated by the new data will have to wait and see. The ruling by Justice Zondo’s provides for parties wishing to gain access to the new data before it comes before the Commission, to bring an application.

Hofmeyr had earlier argued that the content of the hard drives was manifestly relevant to the terms of reference of the Commission.

There were on my count at least six terms of reference that speak specifically to the engagement between the public sphere in South Africa and the Gupta family

She argued that Justice Zondo should be “overwhelmingly confident” about allowing the #Guptaleaks and the new material.

Already, information in the public domain show that British PR firm, Bell Pottinger featured in the leaks, that former Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi had shared confidential draft Cabinet documents with the Guptas and that the CV of former mining minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, had been emailed to the Guptas two months before his was appointed to the post.

Referring to Thursday’s testimony by human rights lawyer, Brian Currin, Hofmeyr said the data on the hard drives show communications between the Gupta family and their associates with individuals such as Duduzane Zuma, Cabinet ministers, officials and CEO’s of state-owned companies.

She said there was no doubt about the importance of the data and that the Commission accepting the material would be consistent with the “truth seeking” pursuit of the inquiry.

The Guptas, through their lawyers, have confirmed that they do not intend returning to South Africa, out of fear that they may be arrested.

But their Dubai hideout seems less comfortable after the Department of International Relations announced the signing of an extradition treaty with the UAE.

The Commission resumes on 3 October when finance minister Nhanhla Nene is scheduled to appear. DM


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