Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has postponed proceedings at the commission of inquiry into state capture until November.
The postponement came after the commission’s legal team requested that former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan and current minister Pravin Gordhan be afforded enough time (at least two weeks) to provide their statements detailing their version of events to implicated parties as per rule three of the commission.
The commission’s legal team, led by Advocate Thandi Norman, brought an application on Wednesday to postpone evidence by Hogan, who was present before the commission and expected to testify on the same day, and Gordhan, who was expected to testify on Friday.
Norman explained that the legal team was requesting the postponement for “fairness’ sake”.
“Having received an initial statement from Hogan, which covered a narrow matter over a month ago, the commission’s legal team received a more broad statement on Monday. This meant that the legal team could not comply with rule three of the commission which requires that implicated parties be afforded two weeks to read, respond or choose to ignore the statements of those testifying,” said Norman.
The evidence leader also explained to Zondo that Gordhan had thus far only submitted a draft statement to the commission’s legal team and was expected to submit his final version of events on Thursday.
“We therefore also request a postponement to those scheduled proceedings since Gordhan was supposed to testify on Friday. The commencement of proceedings would not be in accordance to rule three of the commission’s rules since implicated parties would not be afforded two weeks to respond to the minister’s allegations,” said Norman.
Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal representative Daniel Mantsha, however, challenged the applications for postponement saying the commission’s legal team was being disingenuous.
“As far as I can tell Hogan’s statement implicates only my client and as per rule three of the commission, the legal team has met these conditions since they sent my client, through his lawyers, Hogan’s statement on July 30 giving us more time than the two weeks required as per the commission’s rules,” said Mantsha.
Zuma’s lawyer also challenged why the commission’s legal team furnished his client with the first version of Hogan’ statement and did not find it necessary to mention to his team that there was yet another version filed.
“The commission’s legal team kept urging us to attend Hogan’s testimony, firstly saying she would give testimony in September then on October 8 or 9 informing us that she would be testifying today.
Mantsha argued that, because he didn’t receive the final version of the statement, he wasn’t sure whether he should be working from the final or the initial version.
“The commission’s legal team also never informed us on whether ... we should disregard Hogan’s first version,” argued Mantsha.
In response, Norman argued that Zuma’s legal team had not found it paramount to respond to the initial version hence they should not merely seek to paint the commission’s legal team as being unfair.
Zondo said in the pursuit of fairness and justice he was granting the application for postponement. Hogan’s testimony was postponed to November 12 while Gordhan’s testimony was moved to November 15.
Fireworks were expected at the inquiry into state capture on Wednesday as Hogan was expected to shed light on what happened before she was axed by former president Zuma.
Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor has already testified before the commission, and revealed that Ajay Gupta had offering her the position of state enterprises minister – which at the time was occupied by Hogan.
The catch to getting the position, Mentor disclosed, was that she tweak the routes flown by the state airline SAA, particularly the India to South Africa route. This suggested that the then incumbent Hogan was unwilling to do any favours for the Guptas.
Mentor said that after Hogan was fired and Malusi Gigaba came into the public enterprises position, the South African Airways’ India/SA route was cancelled as suggested by Ajay at their meeting in Saxonwold and replaced by Jet Airways.
In granting postponement on Wednesday, Zondo urged those willing to give testimony before the commission to submit their statements as early as possible since the commission desired to try and finish its job within a reasonable time frame.