Mzwanele Manyi. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
Mzwanele Manyi. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo is considering summoning media owner Mzwanele Manyi to appear before the state capture inquiry, to address claims that he tried to interfere with the testimony of key witness Phumla Williams.

Williams‚ the acting Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) director-general‚ said she was contacted by Manyi during Friday’s state capture inquiry tea break‚ after she had confirmed that the government’s advertising budget had been irregularly spent on The New Age-SABC breakfasts.

Manyi told her‚ via a text message‚ that these breakfasts did not take place during his tenure as director-general of GCIS.

"I think he is trying to influence my submission‚" she said.

Zondo has asked the inquiry lawyers to prepare documentation for him‚ so that he can decide whether to summon Manyi to explain himself.

Manyi‚ meanwhile‚ tweeted the text he had sent Williams‚ with the following message: "Just so it’s clear. Phumla was relating the changes I brought into GCIS. In the same breath she mentions 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 has not applied to cross-examine Williams.

In her evidence‚ Williams testified about how then communications minister Faith Muthambi — accused of leaking confidential Cabinet minutes to the Gupta family — forced her out of her post within months of her appointment‚ partly because she didn’t address her as "honourable Muthambi".

"She wanted to be referred to as ‘honourable Muthambi’ at all times‚" she said‚ later adding that this form of address was only appropriate in parliament.

Muthambi’s interactions with the Gupta family were revealed in the leaked Gupta e-mails‚ which prompted MPs to demand that she be hauled before parliament’s ethics committee.

Williams also testified about how Muthambi tried to force her to push through the appointment of an official who would later replace her — without any proper paperwork.

She said Muthambi was effectively asking her "to do an illegal thing"‚ and she communicated to her that she was not prepared to do so.

"I want to believe when we are public servants … we are not here in our personal capacity‚ we are here to serve the people of SA‚" she said.

Williams said Muthambi had also criticised her for allegedly using "incorrect letterheads" and "inappropriate salutations".

The state capture inquiry is currently investigating claims by former government communications head Themba Maseko that the Gupta family‚ assisted by then president Jacob Zuma‚ tried to force him to channel R600m in state advertising to the family’s media outlets.

Maseko refused and was fired within months.

He was replaced by Manyi — who later took over the Gupta family’s media interests.

Williams disclosed how Manyi rapidly instituted major changes to GCIS‚ which included him exercising ultimate control of how it spent state advertising revenue. These changes included removing the entire GCIS bid adjudication committee‚ which she had previously chaired‚ and replacing people with new officials‚ without any representation from the chief financial officer’s office.

Maseko’s evidence is now part of a Hawks investigation into both Ajay Gupta and Zuma. Williams said she was contacted by the unit in July and questioned in relation to that case.

Her testimony continues on Monday.

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