Deputy Judge President Raymond Zondo – who is heading the commission of inquiry into state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector – has declined the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) request for special access to witnesses in the upcoming probe.
Zondo made the announcement via an emailed statement on Thursday night.
He said that while much of what the DA had asked for was allowed in the normal workings of the commission, the party also wanted the right to examine witnesses, which he could not allow.
“The DA’s request that it be granted the right to examine witnesses giving evidence before the Commission is dismissed,” said Zondo.
He said the party’s request to make written and oral arguments at the conclusion of the commission had been denied, for now, but that they could resubmit this particular request at a later stage.
The DA had argued that because they were one of the complainants to the Office of the Public Protector in the State of Capture Report, released in November 2016, and that had former President Jacob Zuma brought a review application before a high court of the report, they would have been an interested party. They should thus have the right to examine witnesses at the commission, they said.
But Zondo said just because the DA lodged a complaint with the Public Protector did not give them the right to interview witnesses.
“The commission has a legal team whose job includes interviewing potential witnesses, taking statements from them and presenting them to the commission as witnesses. There is no reason why the DA should not rely on the commission’s legal team.”
He said unlike a civil litigation, there were no disputing parties; rather, the commission was an inquiry into “certain allegations”.
“Like any member of the public, the DA may request the commission to call a witness or witnesses. If the commission’s legal team decides not to present that witness or witnesses before the commission and the DA is aggrieved by that decision, it may apply to the chairperson of the commission for his decision on that request,” said Zondo.
The commission is expected to begin on August 20.