#StateCaptureInquiry: Zondo denies Guptas' requests for cross-examination in scathing ruling

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, chairperson of the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. (File)
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, chairperson of the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. (File)

The chairperson of the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has denied the Gupta brothers leave to cross-examine witnesses.

Ajay and Rajesh Gupta had applied to cross examine former deputy minister Mcebisi Jonas, former GCIS head Themba Maseko and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor. 

He said the Guptas had no valid reason not to appear before the commission, and denied their request for the commission to travel abroad to hear their testimony. He also denied their request to testify via videolink. 

"If the commission does not hear the side of the Gupta brothers it will not be because of the commission but that they decided to turn their backs on South Africa," Zondo said. 

READ Zuma: State capture a 'politically-decorated expression'

He added that the commission does not see any reason to give the Gupta brothers any special treatment and will not do so. 

Zondo said he would consider the Gupta brothers' request if they were willing to return to the country. 

"As long as they are [not] prepared to personally and physically appear before the commission within the borders of South Africa, and where this commission can exercise its powers over them, their application cannot be granted.

"But once they are within the borders of South Africa and are prepared to appear physically and personally before the commission, I would have absolutely no difficulty in granting them leave to cross-examine. For it is quite clear, that at least Mr Ajay Gupta, is seriously implicated and it would be fair that he be granted an opportunity to cross-examine any witness who implicated him."

Zuma granted request

Zondo, however, granted former President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane Zuma leave to cross examine Jonas. 

Zondo handed down his ruling on Thursday in Parktown, Johannesburg.

READ: State capture is much bigger than the Guptas

Previously, Zondo expressed concern over the Gupta brothers' applications to cross-examine witnesses, while not being present in South Africa themselves. He raised this issue again on Thursday while handing down his ruling. 

This, after advocate Mike Hellens, SC, for Ajay Gupta, said his client was willing to testify and wanted to cross-examine witnesses from a location outside of the country.

READ: State capture public hearings postponed 'until further notice'

Hellens said the commission doesn't have to send a "caravan" to Dubai, one representative could go.

Worried about being arrested

He claimed the Gupta brothers were worried about possibly being arrested if they returned to South Africa, labeling the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as "recklessly incompetent and a national embarrassment".

Hellens also told the commission that Ajay Gupta has a "powerfully contrary version" to Mentor's version of events, that might not be put before the commission.

Mentor told the commission that Ajay Gupta had offered her the job of public enterprises minister if she in turn would drop the SAA Johannesburg to Mumbai route so that a Gupta-linked company, Jet Airways, could benefit.

She said Ajay told her that there was a planned reshuffle by Zuma and he was going to fire Barbara Hogan, who was the incumbent.

Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas also claimed the Guptas offered him R600m if he accepted the finance minister post.

Jacob Zuma has not applied to question any of the witnesses at the hearing. 

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