Mzwanele Manyi insists on having say

Mzwanele Manyi talks on his phone at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg, on November 14 2018.
Mzwanele Manyi talks on his phone at the state capture inquiry in Parktown, Johannesburg, on November 14 2018.
Image: Masi Losi

Former media entrepreneur and government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi went “freestyle” on the state capture inquiry on Wednesday, insisting that he be allowed to respond to allegations made against him – and lead his own evidence.

The commission’s legal team had asked that Manyi’s evidence be postponed to November 23 but he objected, telling judge Raymond Zondo that he was not being treated fairly and that he was “psychologically prepared” to present his evidence.

Manyi was at the inquiry after being subpoenaed over a text message he sent to acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams during her testimony, asking her to change the evidence she had given.

Manyi said he also wanted to give his version of what had happened at the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) when he was appointed CEO, as Williams had testified that he had collapsed the established government processes and directed funds to the Gupta media entities.

Evidence leader advocate Vincent Maleka cautioned Manyi on whether he was willing to take the risk to be crossexamined on issues and allegations that had arisen against him in the inquiry.

Manyi, however, objected, saying he did not come to the commission to face an “omnibus” and only wanted to respond to Williams’s allegations.

He said he was unapologetic about making dramatic changes at the GCIS when he was appointed in February 2011 due to the rot in the department.

He said he had found a “mini VBS” at the GCIS.

He claimed that Williams had signed off on a R26m tender when she had no authority to do so and that R64m was paid to a service provider for work that had not been done.

Manyi confirmed Williams’s evidence that he had collapsed a bid adjudication committee and took over its functioning.

He did so because Williams and others had served on the committee for 10 years.

“These people have no freshness . . . I thought no, time for a change.”

He said GCIS became a well-oiled machine on his watch.

Manyi confirmed he sent Williams a text message during her testimony but said it was in good faith.

He said he only wanted to ask her to correct the chronology of her evidence and did not know he was doing anything wrong as he was not a lawyer.

Williams had complained of how a chief financial officer employed during Manyi’s tenure had allegedly bullied the procurement team.

“At that point, I knew exactly that [this was a period when] I was not there,” he said.

Zondo asked Manyi to return to the commission on Friday next week, when he will face questions on the evidence he presented as well as other allegations made against him.

Earlier in the day, former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan wrapped up her testimony, describing the fierce lobbying to have South African Airways drop its busy Mumbai route so that the Indian airline Jet Airways could take over.

The route was dropped after Hogan was axed and Malusi Gigaba was appointed to replace her