Raymond Zondo blasts media for publishing witness statements before testimony
Zondo says this undermines the work of the state capture commission and is not in the public interest
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo has taken the media to task once again for publishing testimony that had not yet been presented at the state capture inquiry, accusing some journalists and editors of being more concerned with making a profit.
This was after weekend newspapers reported on what former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi was expected to testify about at the commission.
This included allegations that environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane had received bribes from the facilities management company.
It was reported at the weekend that Agrizzi’s testimony would detail how he had been given a list of Christmas groceries to buy for Mokonyane every year since 2002. These included cases of expensive alcohol and packs of meat. Agrizzi eventually testified to this on Monday.
He detailed for the commission how Bosasa lined the pockets of ANC heavyweights and state officials in exchange for furthering its business interests with the government.
Agrizzi began his testimony on Monday with Mokonyane.
The minister is said to have insisted that the firm foot the bill for ANC rallies, birthday celebrations, funeral services and even a rental car for her daughter. Agrizzi said that Bosasa had paid for at least a dozen ANC events, including the party’s Siyanqoba rallies, which are held before elections.
Apart from favours for the party, Agrizzi also testified about the grocery lists for Mokonyane and about how Bosasa paid for repairs to her Roodepoort home. Mokonyane has denied the allegations.
Lawyers for Mokonyane had written to the commission complaining that she had not been issued with a notice informing her that she would be implicated in Agrizzi’s evidence and that this breached her constitutional rights.
Madlanga and Partners, for Mokonyane, said evidence that her rights had been breached came to light when Sunday newspapers called her asking her to respond to allegations made by Agrizzi in his witness statement.
“Having not been afforded the opportunity to access the affidavit of Mr Agrizzi by the commission, our client felt betrayed by the fact that the newspaper[s], which are not affected parties, had access to the contents of the affidavit and expected her to respond to such allegations,” her lawyers said in the letter.
Mokonyane wanted to the opportunity to give representations on whether the commission should deviate from its normal practice of issuing notices to those who would be implicated in testimony.
She said that by denying her access to Agrizzi’s statement, her constitutional rights had been breached.
Last week the head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius, said the inquiry had decided not to issue these notices because Agrizzi had been receiving death threats and people were trying to “coerce” him into not giving evidence.
Mokonyane’s lawyers have requested that the commission consider the issues raised and advise on “remedial steps” it would take to address this.
Zondo, who is chairing the inquiry, said on Tuesday that publishing witness statements before they had testified was undermining the work of the commission and was not in the public interest.
“I see nothing that is in the public interest in the publication of what the witness is going to say in a few days time,” he said.
Zondo said publishing this information was going against the regulations of the commission and against the rule of law, and some decided to ignore this.
“It is wrong. They undermine this commission. For what? For a scoop, for making profits?”
He said if journalists and editors were unhappy with the regulations, they should approach the courts to challenge them.
“Please do not publish information in circumstances where you are undermining this commission and acting in breach of the law,” Zondo said.