South Africa

Days of Zondo

Manyi back-tracks on bid for recusal from inquiry of Advocate Vincent Maleka

Advocate Vincent Maleka during Raymond Zondo’s judicial commission of inquiry into state capture at Parktown on August 28, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Masi Losi

Mzwanele Manyi on Tuesday accused senior advocate Vincent Maleka of interrogating him like a “criminal” while allegedly having taken a softer approach with other witnesses appearing before the State Capture inquiry.

Former media mogul, Mzwanele Manyi accused State Capture inquiry evidence leader Vincent Maleka of having questioned him during the latter part of Monday in a “prosecutorial manner,” saying this was in contrast to how Maleka allegedly treated other witnesses.

He kicked off on Tuesday morning with a rather blistering attack on the integrity of the renowned senior advocate who has been assigned by the head of the legal team to deal with how the Guptas scored millions of rand in government advertising.

Manyi said he was not subpoenaed and did not have legal representation and, that application for funding for legal fees through the State Attorney’s office was still pending.

Why is it that I am the first witness to get this hostile cross-examination?” Manyi asked during his informal request that Maleka recuse himself.

He abandoned this request following a short adjournment and the insistence by Maleka that a formal application for his recusal would need to be brought in view of the severity of the claims.

Manyi had suggested that another member of the legal team simply take over from Maleka.

He also said that Maleka had previously acted against his companies in another matter, suggesting the senior advocate was conflicted.

Maleka said while this was true, that matter had been concluded and importantly, noted that Manyi himself had since requested that he represent him.

This was not possible as he was not available, Maleka said.

If the issue is concern around impartiality, that is not the case. Our rules of professional ethics require us to act for anyone,” said Maleka.

Before Manyi changed his mind and agreed that Maleka could proceed to question him, the senior advocate said he would be guided by chairman, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, about the need for a recusal but cautioned against the impact of ill-considered requests by witnesses who may for whatever reason display an unwillingness to be questioned by a particular evidence leader.

Maleka said he understood the need for a middle ground in the interest of the Commission’s time and financial resources and added: “It would be a sad day that witnesses can come to the Commission and choose who can question them.”

This, Maleka said, could ultimately hamper the Commission’s efforts to get to the truth.

He urged justice Zondo to “please consider the utility of an application (for recusal)”.

Although Manyi later abandoned his informal and allegedly unfounded request, justice Zondo initially commented that the Commission’s legal team had a duty to prove or disprove allegations made before the inquiry.

In the rules of this Commission, the legal team have a right to ask questions aimed at establishing the truth. This does not mean that witnesses will always get what they want or that they would not feel uncomfortable,” Zondo said.

Zondo said he would be “watching and listening” to ensure that all persons, implicated or not, are treated fairly.

Manyi wrapped up his second day of testimony in response to written questions from the Commission’s legal team.

Tuesday was a lot less free-flowing for the former government spin doctor. His three-hour long response to the questions on Monday was largely uninterrupted after he asked that he be allowed to state his case.

But once Maleka started cross-questioning him about his tenure as the CEO of GCIS at a time when the Gupta-owned media company, TNA, raked in millions in government advertising, things became progressively tense, especially around his contention that the Guptas had received but a tiny slice of the government pie when the figures showed otherwise.

On Tuesday, once permitted to proceed with questioning, Maleka asked Manyi about the lawfulness of the transfer to GCIS in 2011, of a CV and business proposal he had sent to senior Gupta employees, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla.

In one of those #Guptaleaks emails, with the subject “Black Woman – legal,” Manyi allegedly referred to an earlier conversation with Tony Gupta.

Manyi challenged the introduction of these emails, several times, for relevance as he says they were private communications that occurred well after he had left the employ of government.

Maleka told the Commission that the questions were crucial as they spoke to the manner in which the Guptas did business in line with the Commission’s mandate as it seeks to investigate their alleged role in State Capture and how they at times received the CV’s of individuals that came to be appointed in government.

The Commission’s legal team has also written to National Treasury to respond to claims Manyi made on Monday that the liquidation of TNA (which he later bought from the Guptas) had been triggered by critical reporting on a R1.7-billion deal for an integrated finance management system.

Questioning on Manyi came to an end just before lunch and Gwede Mantashe, former ANC Secretary General and the current mining minister, took the oath to begin his testimony. DM

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