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Almost all of the journalists who listened to Phumla Williams’s testimony at the state capture inquiry on Monday had interviewed the acting government communications head at one time or another. She is known to be calm and unflappable, a consummate professional who is always polite, prepared and kind. So when Williams broke down while describing how she had been stripped of 70% of her duties by then communications minister Faith Muthambi, in an apparent effort to remove her oversight of her department’s procurement and finances, shock reverberated through the media benches. As they typed, some journalists had their hands over their mouths. Two shook their heads. Another appeared to be crying. "Minister Muthambi had ripped my scars of torture, completely, completely," Williams said, as she described how her mistreatment at the hands of Muthambi reawakened the trauma she suffered while being tortured by the apartheid police. As she testified, words tumbled from her like a pent-up floo...

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