WATCH | 5 highlights from the state capture inquiry in 2020

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  • The Zondo commission of inquiry has heard testimony from more than 250 witnesses. 
  • The inquiry officially began its work on 20 August 2018. 
  • Here are some of 2020's most memorable moments.

The state capture inquiry, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, continued to captivate South Africans in 2020, with gripping testimony that often shocked and some that appeared to frustrate Zondo himself.

From former SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana's fat cake analogy to businessman Edwin Sodi's admission that he made payments to ANC and other government officials, evidence before the commission this year was the subject of many dinner table conversations.

The inquiry officially began in August 2018 and was expected to wrap up in March 2021.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Gallo Images Veli Nhlapo, Gallo Images

However, Zondo announced during a virtual media briefing on Monday, 21 December, that the commission would ask the High Court for a three-month extension. He said the commission needed to regain the time lost during the national lockdown. 

So far, the commission has heard evidence from 278 witnesses, he said. 

Here are some of the highlights: 

Former president Jacob Zuma's walkout

When Zondo dismissed former president Jacob Zuma's bid for his recusal, Zuma, in an unprecedented move, left the inquiry in defiance of a summons issued against him.

Zuma accused Zondo of bias, and said they shared a "close relationship" - claims which Zondo denied multiple times.

Handing down his ruling on Zuma's recusal bid, the deputy chief justice said there was no sound reason why the former president raised issues of friendship more than two years after he was chosen to chair the inquiry.

After Zuma's walkout, Zondo requested that a criminal complaint be laid against the former president.

Former president Jacob Zuma and his lawyer, Advoca
Former president Jacob Zuma and his lawyer, Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane at the state capture commission.
Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images

He also approached the Constitutional Court to ask it to compel Zuma to appear in January and February next year.

Zuma is not opposing the matter. The case is expected to be heard virtually on 29 December.

Pravin Gordhan vs Tom Moyane

On 30 November, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan appeared before Zondo to be cross-examined by advocate Dali Mpofu on behalf of former South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane.

Gordhan last appeared before the commission in 2018 when he testified about his time as the finance minister.

Moyane was SARS' boss at the time. The two were known to be at odds with each other, News24 reported.  

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan cross-examined at the Zondo commission. (Papi Morake, Gallo Images)

But Gordhan believed the hostility arose from Moyane's role in trying to remove him as finance minister.

However, Mpofu said Moyane believed Gordhan was hostile because of general arrogance, petty jealousy, racism, a desire to deflect from his own engagement of corruption and state capture and Moyane blowing the lid on the so-called SARS "rogue unit".  

Former SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana

Who could forget the testimony of Yakhe Kwinana, a former SAA board member and former SAA Technical board chairperson.

On one of the days she appeared before Zondo, she mostly went around in circles and had memory lapses here and there, as Fin24 reported.

When she was asked about the cancellation of a catering tender in favour of SAA's Air Chefs, Kwinana used the analogy of her daughter selling fat cakes:

If my daughter is selling fat cakes here at home, why would I go and buy fat cakes next door?

It got her trending on social media.  

Previous witnesses at the commission implicated Kwinana in alleged acts of corruption and "creating an atmosphere of intimidation to those who tried to resist".

READ | Zondo: State capture commission will ask High Court for another extension

The commission also heard that Kwinana was trusted by eight clients to do forex investments without a licence.

It also heard that she received kickbacks from US company AAR, which was involved in a joint venture with local BEE company JM Aviation, in exchange for a tender worth about R1.3 billion in March 2016 to provide components to SAA Technical.

Yakhe Kwinana
Yakhe Kwinana, former chairman of SAA Technical and a former SAA board member, testified before the Zondo commission. Picture: Gallo Images

But Kwinana denied any wrongdoing including the claim that she went to the US to meet AAR representatives while the company was still bidding. 

She said: "The only time the board knows about a tender going on, it is at the final approval. So if there was a tender while I was in Chicago, I would not know if it had not been brought to the board. There are so many SAA tenders I do not [keep track]."

Zondo asked her if she was serious about saying that, in her judgement, there was nothing wrong with her, as a board member who made decisions about tenders which AAR bid for, going on a trip and letting them "wine and dine" her in the US.

She objected to the phrase "wine and dine", saying it insinuated that she could not buy her own food and drink.

She claimed the trip was for due diligence. 

Businessman Edwin Sodi defends payments to ANC and others

Edwin Sodi, who was involved in an alleged asbestos looting scheme in the Free State, admitted to the commission that he made payments to the ANC and other government officials.

But he defended the payments, saying there was nothing criminal about supporting one's party of choice.

The payments were made while Sodi's company benefitted from government tenders.

Director of Blackhead Edwin Sodi. (Photo by Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle)
Gallo Images

The officials mentioned included Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa, Deputy Communications Minister Pinky Kekana and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.

Sodi said he did not view the payments as "strange, fraudulent or as corrupt".

READ HERE | Ramaphosa commits ANC - and by default, Zuma - to cooperate with Zondo

Sodi was also asked about a R6.5-million payment which was referenced "Zweli Mkhize". He said Mkhize was the ANC's treasurer-general at the time and the money was specifically for the party.

Sodi also made a payment of R371 553 to Paul Mashatile, saying the payment was made "directly to the ANC".

Dudu Myeni revealing a protected witness' identity

The commission has opened a criminal case against former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni after she disclosed the name of a secret witness during her testimony.

Zondo said Myeni should be investigated for a breach of the Commissions Act and regulations.

In her testimony, Myeni named a witness who was only known as "Mr X", who implicated her in his evidence.

Dudu Myeni testifies
Dudu Myeni testifies before the Zondo commission via Zoom. (Lubabalo Lesolle, Gallo Images)

The commission's evidence leader, Kate Hofmeyr, said at the time that Myeni knew why Mr X's identity was a secret and that revealing his identity was a willful obstruction of the commission and its processes.

She also practised her right to remain silent in response to most of the questions asked.

 - Compiled by Jeanette Chabalala

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