Who was the Zondo commission's worst witness?

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The commission of inquiry into state capture, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, began on August 21 2018. Picture: Veli Nhlapo
The commission of inquiry into state capture, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, began on August 21 2018. Picture: Veli Nhlapo


The state capture inquiry has been one of the biggest stories in South Africa since it began in 2018.

From former president Jacob Zuma’s refusal to participate in the inquiry’s urgent Constitutional Court bid to compel him to appear before the commission to Dudu Myeni revealing the name of “Mr X”, a witness implicating her, a boxing match between Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Advocate Dali Mpofu and attempts to have Judge Zondo recuse himself, there has been no lack of drama in the proceedings.

A number of witnesses – like Zuma – either blatantly refused to cooperate and answer questions directly, or claimed to have no knowledge of the things they were asked about.


  • Yakhe Kwinana

One of the worst witnesses who left millions of South Africans baffled and angry was former SAA board member and former SAA Technical chairperson Yakhe Kwinana, who told the commission that there was nothing wrong with her and other executives being wined and dined by a US company bidding for a tender from SAA.

Kwinana also denied allegations that she received R4.3 million in bribes and kickbacks from companies contracted by the airline to supply aircraft parts.

Most memorably, when asked to describe her role in the illegal reversal of a lucrative tender, she launched into a bizarre analogy about “going next door to buy vetkoek, leaving it here [taps the witness box] for her child”, and then giving us instructions on how much baking powder should be used to satisfy customers.

Read: 'I know nothing of that contract,"SAA Technica's Kwinana tells Zondo Commission

An Oscar-winning performance, by any standards.

  • Jacob Zuma

Last month, Zuma walked out of the commission after his application for the recusal of its chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, was refused.

The commission’s secretary, Professor Itumeleng Mosala, has filed an application with the Constitutional Court to have Zuma summonsed to testify in January and February.

However, through his attorney, Eric Mabuza, Zuma has indicated that he will not participate in the court proceedings at all.

  • Dudu Myeni

Former SAA chairperson Myeni did the unthinkable when she revealed the identity of “Mr X”, a witness implicating her in allegedly dodgy deals with the Mhlathuze Water Board.

Zondo had ordered the name of the witness, who testified in camera, to be withheld for his own safety.

Myeni also refused to answer questions throughout her appearance, saying she did not want to incriminate herself.

  • Vuyisile Ndzeku

JM Aviation director and former Swissport SA director Ndzeku will go down in history as the man with such a severe case of amnesia that he even no longer recalled when he got married.

Ndzeku, who also completely forgot that he had paid himself R2.5 million, answered every question with: “I don’t know ... I don’t remember.”

He also fired a few shots at the commission, claiming it was targeting black executives in the aviation industry while millions had disappeared at SAA under white leadership – which, he said, had never been investigated.

  • Angelo Agrizzi

The former Bosasa chief operating officer made a brief appearance at the commission in March and offered a public apology to department of correctional services official Jabu Sishuba.

In his previous testimony, in January 2019, Agrizzi accused Sishuba of accepting bribes from Bosasa.

Read: Agrizzi to spill more beans at state capture inquiry

He also said that former minister of environmental affairs Nomvula Mokonyane had been paid R50 000 every month to quash the Hawks’ investigations into Bosasa. Mokonyane has denied this. However, during his March appearance, Agrizzi turned out to have been an evasive witness who had made errors during his testimony.

  • Nomvula Mokonyane

Mokonyane was identified as a key figure in the Bosasa patronage network. She not only received monthly bribes from Bosasa’s CEO Gavin Watson, but acquired a R4 million state-of-the-art Aston Martin vehicle, which she claimed had been bought through a “business arrangement” that involved a deposit payment of R2.2 million towards the car.

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegation

Mokonyane denied allegations that Bosasa financed her 50th birthday party and security upgrades at her house, or that it paid for her family’s Christmas groceries one year.

  • Zola Tsotsi

Former Eskom chairperson Tsotsi turned out to be a key Gupta ally who had played a big role in the capturing of the state-owned enterprise through the appointment of another Gupta key man, Brian Molefe, as the entity’s CEO.

Tsotsi allegedly also obeyed instructions from the Guptas to remove three executives – Matshela Koko, Dan Marokane and Tshediso Matona. The three were duly suspended in order to enable the Guptas to secure multibillion-rand contracts.

  • Matshela Koko

Former Eskom CEO Koko, who tried very hard to distance himself from the corruption that took place at the organisation, denied that he had ever called his colleagues to meetings with Salim Essa, a Gupta crony and collaborator.

Eskom’s head of legal services, Susan Daniels, alleged she had had a meeting with Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma (son of Jacob Zuma) and Ben Martins, then deputy minister of public enterprises, near Melrose Arch in Johannesburg in July 2017 to discuss former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe.

  • Siyabonga Mahlangu

Mahlangu, then special adviser to then public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, did himself no favours when he appeared before the commission.

Siyabonga Mahlangu

His version of events about his involvement in the reinstatement of Transnet’s former CEO, Siyabonga Gama, lacked credibility, as he claimed he could not remember why he had travelled to India on holiday at the expense of the Guptas. During his testimony, Mahlangu was at times close to tears and clearly out of his depth.

  • Pravin Gordhan vs Dali Mpofu

The battle between Gordhan and Mpofu was an unforgettable spectacle. The showdown between the two ended with Mpofu losing his temper and accusing Gordhan of being a racist and a bully. Gordhan had previously told Mpofu’s client, former SA Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane, to “grow up” and not be “cheeky”.

Gordhan, in response to Mpofu’s accusations, said: “I reject with absolute contempt any suggestion that there is racism involved in my interactions.”

Mpofu: “Well, grow up, Mr Gordhan, don’t be cheeky. How does that feel?”

Gordhan: “I take it the way it comes, Mr Mpofu.”

The pair then began talking over each other with raised voices.

Mpofu: “Well, I can tell you how it feels for people like me. Let me give you advice: you must never again belittle African people the way you did in this conversation by telling them to grow up.”


Gordhan: “I did not ...”

Mpofu: “And that they’re cheeky. You must not do it again, okay?”

The Commission wrapped up hearings for the year and will resume in January. The Commission was granted a final extension to complete its work by March.


Gcina Ntsaluba 


+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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