Mzwanele Manyi talks on his phone at the Zondo state capture commission on Wednesday. Picture: MASI LOSI
Mzwanele Manyi talks on his phone at the Zondo state capture commission on Wednesday. Picture: MASI LOSI

Former Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)  head Mzwanele Manyi says he introduced some changes at the department after  finding a “mini VBS” when he arrived in 2011.

Manyi is testifying at the state-capture inquiry, giving his side of the story after damning testimony by current government spokesperson Phumla Williams.

Manyi became GCIS head in February 2011 when Themba Maseko was fired by former president Jacob Zuma. 

Maseko testified that he was fired after he refused to do the Guptas’ bidding.

Manyi has been a staunch support of Zuma and a known Gupta associate and defender.  In 2017, he bought the Guptas' media assets;  The New Age newspaper and TV channel ANN7.

Earlier in 2018, the newspaper was put under provisional liquidation and the TV station was dropped from the DStv platform where it operated a 24-hour news channel.

Williams, who testified at the inquiry in August, said that when Manyi arrived at GCIS he changed the entire bid adjudication committee which she  used to chair. She alleged that regulations were changed under Manyi so that tenders decided on by the committee would have to be finalised by him.

Manyi admitted on Wednesday to changing the bid adjudication committee, as Williams had alleged, but said it was not done with an agenda. He said he found there  was “collaboration” in the tender process at GCIS.

“They had a very elaborate scheme … a typical mini-VBS,” he said, likening the scandal to that which bankrupted the VBS Mutual Bank in Limpopo. Municipalities and  poor people lost their deposits in the bank, which was looted by its shareholders, politicians and the bank management.

Manyi referred to a contract  awarded to a service provider  for a project around the 2011 census. He alleged that  more than R7m was paid “irregularly” by the government to this service provider, the  appointment of which was “extremely irregular”.

“I then had to unbundle the bid adjudication committee,” he said.

Manyi said this had happened under the people Williams had lauded during her testimony.  Williams had been a member of the bid adjudication committee for 10 years, he said.

Manyi will return to the commission on November 23 when the legal team will  cross-examine him.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za