Chairperson of the state capture commission of inquiry, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has dismissed the postponement application of former director-general in the department of the human settlements, Thabane Zulu.
Zulu’s lawyer, advocate Shane Dayal, said his client wanted to cross-examine former Economic Development MEC, Mxolisi Dukwana, before taking the witnesses stand.
Dukwana previously gave evidence about a questionable R255 million “asbestos auditing” project in the Free State.
A joint venture between engineering consultancy firm Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading 71 scored the contract in 2014.
During his testimony, Dukwana presented a spreadsheet called a “cost of business” schedule.
According to him, the amount reflected on the schedule was paid as gratification for the contract.
Several initials or names in the schedule were noted as TZ, TM, AM, OM, MEC, MZ, Steve, JT and Diedericks.
On Thursday morning, Dayal said that he wanted to cross-examine Dukwana before Zulu testified.
“Mr Dukwana is the commission’s star witness on the asbestos eradication project in the Free State,” Dayal said.
Reading from Zulu’s affidavit, Dayal said: “Bearing that in mind (that Dukwana is a ‘star witness’), this is what my client said: ‘With regard to the statement of Mr Dukwana, any responsible, legally trained person who has regard to the statement would be reckless if they did not conclude that the statement comprises an undirected rambling gossip sheet. There appears to be no substantiation whatsoever for the allegations loosely made by the deponent.’
“And then he says the following: ‘I would remind the commission that it has to go about its work in a responsible manner. It is positively under a legal duty to avoid unsubstantiated allegations from being publicly aired with the consequent damning consequences. In my case, they will be serious indeed. And then he said: ‘I insist on a right to cross-examine Mr Dukwana.'”
However, Zondo said Zulu did not have the right to cross-examine but he had a right to apply to cross-examine.
The commission’s legal head, advocate Paul Pretorius, said Dukwana was not a “star witness” in relation to the asbestos project.
“Nothing that will be put to Mr Zulu, hopefully today, will deal with the evidence that Mr Dukwana gave,” Pretorius said.
“It is true that he put up a spreadsheet – a cost of business schedule. He did it as a whistleblower. He could not testify to its authenticity and he gave evidence… largely speculative and [of a] hearsay nature,” he said.
“The issues that will be dealt with Mr Zulu are entirely based to the issues that were dealt with during the investigations.”
“The cost of business schedule, I don’t intend to deal with Mr Zulu at all.”
He said the issues that would be dealt with had already been put to Zulu.
But Dayal fired back and said: “Mr Dukwana has been a witness that the commission has relied on, has been the complainant, so to speak, in relation to the Free State asbestos audit.
“Now, to simply look at Mr Dukwana’s evidence in isolation is, with respect, inappropriate. My client is then asked to get into the witness box in a public forum such as this, where his reputation may be affected, where he may suffer defamation, where he may be asked unnecessary questions.
“He surely should be given an opportunity to cross-examine the very witness that the commission is relying upon to continue with this evidence on the Free State asbestos audit.”
Zondo dismissed the application for a postponement.
The commission is currently hearing his evidence.