'I feel like I'm here for an ambush,' Manyi tells state capture commission

Mzwanele Manyi returned to the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.
Mzwanele Manyi returned to the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.
Image: Masi Losi

Former government communications boss Mzwanele Manyi claimed on Wednesday that the state capture inquiry was attempting to "ambush" him.

Manyi, who returned to the stand at the commission under subpoena after his initial testimony in November last year, interjected before the commission's advocate Kate Hofmeyr, who is leading his evidence, could begin.

Manyi's objections to testifying was reminiscent of his initial testimony, when he requested that his then evidence leader, advocate Vincent Maleka, recuse himself because his questions were too "prosecutorial".

"I want to raise the issue of procedural fairness, which I don’t think I am receiving," he said.

"On October 25, I received correspondence from the commission asking me to come and appear here to give oral evidence. Part of what is said in the memorandum is that I must come give evidence and be asked questions on the withdrawal or dismissal from the department of labour from Mildred Oliphant, transfer from the position of director-general from the department of labour to GCIS, and matters incidental to that," he said.

He claimed he did not know what those topics had to do with state capture.

"I then respond to this and say to the secretariat that I am confused on what this had to do with the state capture mandate ... I go further: I say that in any event, people that were actors in this space were actually ministers. It was a minister that would have suspended me, dismissed me, reinstated me or transferred me. Where do I come in?

"I was the subject of these decisions, so what am I coming to do here?

"These were decisions that were taken by the executive authorities over me ... Then I get subpoenaed to come here. I get coerced to come here," he said.

Manyi said the questions were a "broad canvas" that was difficult to prepare for.

"I don’t think the commission is ready for me and I certainly am not ready. I should have been given ample opportunity to prepare. I feel like I am here for an ambush ... I am asking for an adjournment until the commission can give me all the things I need to consider," he said.

But Hofmeyr was ready with her response, arguing that Manyi was given ample assistance to understand what the commission required from him, and why.

"There has been no ambush," she said. "The interactions with Manyi commence in a letter dated October 16 2019. Questions focused on his tenure at the department of labour, charges he faced, the outcome of that process, whether he was terminated as a consequence, and whether there had been any appeal.

"He sat with the investigators and evidence leaders to go through his response to the questions that would be posed, in order for him to prepare an affidavit to the commission."

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the commission, said they should move ahead with Manyi's testimony.

"Based on what Hofmeyr has read to me, I think that it may well be that the summons could have been formulated in a more precise way than it was, because it might look quite wide," Zondo told Manyi.

"To the extent that you may be asked questions that relate to matters where you need more time to recollect or to look at documents to refresh your memory, that may be something that can be looked at to make sure there is fairness.

"I don’t want to make a ruling. I would like to see how we can accommodate your concerns and still be able to move forward."

Manyi's testimony is expected to continue on Thursday.


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