The chairperson of the commission of inquiry into state capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has slammed the media for publishing portions of former Bosasa chief operation officer (COO) Angelo Agrizzi before the witness gave it as testimony at the inquiry.
Sunday newspapers reported extensively on former Bosasa chief operations officer and whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi’s affidavit, which revealed that he would implicate high-ranking government officials.
Zondo said the publication of the leaked affidavit was not in the public interest and it appears to him it had been done in pursuit of profits or being the first to report on the contents of Agrizzi’s affidavit – having a scoop.
“I do not know whether the journalists and editors and newspapers who did so believe that it was in the public interest that they publish what Mr Agrizzi was to testify about ahead of [him giving the testimony],” Zondo said.
The commission’s chair said those who had decided to publish the leaked content of Agrizzi’s affidavit did so knowing the witness would openly give the evidence in a few days’ time.
“It seems to me that it must be that either a newspaper wants to make money, or they just want to be the first ones to tell the public what the witness is going to say, they see a scoop,” Zondo said.
He said the journalists, editors, and newspapers who published the leaked content of Agrizzi’s affidavit were not serving the public interest but rather their own interests.
Zondo said the publication of the leaked content of Agrizzi’s affidavit had been in breach of regulation 11 sub-regulation 2 and sub-regulation 3 of the regulations applicable to the commission.
Zondo said sub-regulation 2 of regulation 11 reads: “No person shall communicate to any other person any matter or information which may have come to his or her knowledge in connection with the inquiry or allow or permit any other person to have access to any records of the commission except insofar as it is necessary in the performance of his or her duties in connection with the functions of the commission or by order of a competent court that relates to mainly the stuff of the commission.”
He said sub-regulation 3 reads: “No person shall, without the written permission of the chairperson, disseminate any documents submitted to the commission by any person in connection with the inquiry or publish the contents or any portion of the contents of such documents or peruse any document, including any statement which is destined to be submitted to the commission’s chair or intercept such document while it is being taken or forwarded to the chairperson.”
Zondo said the publication of portions of Agrizzi’s affidavit was done without his permission and that doing so undermined the work of the commission.
He said no journalist, editor, or newspaper had approached a court to declare the regulations unconstitutional, which he said would have been the right thing.
Zondo said the publication of the leaked content of the affidavit had been unacceptable, wrong and undermined the work of the commission for the sake of having a scoop and making a profit.
“So I take this opportunity to appeal, once again, to the media not to act in a manner that undermines the work of this commission,” Zondo said.
The commission’s chair called on the media to exercise fairness, afford the commission space to conduct its work, show support to the inquiry and allow its team sufficient time to respond to media inquiries.
Agrizzi’s testimony continues: