South Africa

Days of Zondo

Zondo riled by fellow judge’s ‘no show’

January 23 2020 Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo brief the media on the possible extension of the commission of inquiry into state capture Pic Veli Nhlapo

In a rare move, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has ordered another sitting judge to come to the State Capture Commission to give evidence on her tenure as chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.

On Friday 24 July, Judge Tinswalo Annah Nana Makhubele, the former chairperson of the interim board of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), was ordered to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture following her request for a postponement into her evidence.

Makhubele was appointed chairperson of the interim board in October 2017 and, at the same time, became a judge of the Gauteng High Court. In 2018, she was replaced as interim chair of the board of Prasa by Khanyisile Kweyama – who is also due to testify at the commission.

Makhubele has been named in testimony in connection with her stint as Prasa interim board chairperson — by the agency’s head of legal, risk and compliance Martha Ngoye, group legal services general manager Fanie Dingiswayo and advocate Francois Botes, all of whom have already testified at the inquiry. In addition, Makhubele is implicated in yet-to-be-heard evidence from activist Zackie Achmat.

She was due to give evidence before the commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on Friday morning but instead sent a letter requesting a postponement as she said she’d not have enough time to consult her legal representatives.

Her representative Advocate Gift Shakoane (SC) said Makhubele had only realised after 9 July, following a meeting with commission investigators, that she needed legal representation and thus sought counsel. Shakoane said “before the 9th, she did not realise that”.

“What is the real reason why your client wants a postponement?” asked Zondo. 

Shakoane repeated that she had not consulted her lawyers.

Zondo was clearly unimpressed with this line and said: “Remember we are not talking about a layperson or an advocate or an attorney, we are talking about a judge.”

Shakoane then informed the commission that Makhubele had been in a car accident on Thursday while driving from Mokopane in Limpopo to Tshwane. A tyre on the vehicle burst causing an accident which, according to Shakoane left Makhubele too traumatised to appear before the commission on Friday.

Zondo adjourned the commission so Shakoane could contact Makhubele to find out if she would be able to make it to the commission to answer questions related to the postponement application.

Following the break, Shakoane said Makhubele was “not emotionally in a state to attend or to testify here today”.

Zondo, clearly frustrated, said: “I think Judge Makhubele has known the commission has wanted her to come and give evidence for at least a number of months… She has known it was likely that she was going to be asked to give evidence, it was a question of when.”

Zondo said the application brought by Shakoane on behalf of Makhubele “does not reveal any good cause for her postponement”, and added, “The fact of the matter is, she is not here right now.”

Earlier in Friday’s session, Zondo said he had specifically asked Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo when Makhubele would be available and they had agreed she would be available for testimony on Friday 24 May and the following Monday.

Despite his unhappiness with the situation, Zondo postponed Friday’s hearing but noted that this was an inconvenience for the commission as other evidence would now have to be shifted to accomodate a new date for Makhubele’s testimony. “But I’m determined that I will hear her evidence and it mustn’t take long before I hear it,” he said.

Zondo ordered Makhubele to file an affidavit in response to evidence about her by the close of business on 9 July. He then ordered her to appear before the Commission on Monday 3 August at 10am.

The commission will continue next week with law enforcement-related evidence. Former police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko is expected to appear on Monday. DM

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