State capture: Lynne Brown - I don't deny relationship with the Guptas‚ but I don't work for them

20 September 2018 - 12:03 By Ranjeni Munusamy
Former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown.
Former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

Former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown has not denied that she had a relationship with the infamous Gupta family‚ but would dispute any claims that she worked with them if given a chance to testify at the state capture inquiry.

Brown’s application to cross-examine former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas was on Thursday dismissed by the commission chair‚ Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

However‚ Brown has been granted permission to submit a new application at a later stage if she “meets the requirements”‚ Zondo ruled before announcing the next set of witnesses to testify at the commission.

Current and former finance ministers Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan will testify on October 3 and 10‚ respectively. Former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan will give evidence on October 15.

Brown wanted to question Jonas on his testimony that Ajay Gupta had told him that the family “worked closely” with a number of government high-fliers‚ including her and former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe.

Zondo appeared vexed that Brown’s lawyer Simmy Lebala wanted to cross-examine Jonas without giving his client’s version of her relationship with the Guptas.

Zondo said he also understood that Brown wanted to cross-examine Jonas on evidence he would still give to the commission about the hostility from cabinet towards the National Treasury and ministry of finance.

Lebala said they only wanted to question Jonas on specific points of his conversation with Gupta.

While conceding that Brown did not deny the allegations about her relationship with the Guptas in her affidavit‚ Lebala said the former minister would demonstrate that it could not be true that she had worked with the Guptas.

Zondo repeatedly interrupted Lebala‚ asking what the purpose would be of Brown cross-examining Jonas as he had merely relayed what Gupta had told him. He said it would be a different matter if Gupta was to be a witness.

“He (Jonas) is not the one who says the Guptas worked with among others Miss Brown‚” said Zondo. “Mr Jonas will say what he was told. He is not in the position to dispute what he was told.”

The judge repeatedly asked for Brown’s version of the allegations but Lebala was unable to provide this as it was not contained in her affidavit to the commission.

“Where is her version? If you cannot answer the question‚ whatever you say is not going to help. If that requirement is not there‚ you are going to have serious problems to get me to grant you leave to cross-examine‚” said an irritated Zondo.

After telling Lebala that his time was up‚ Zondo made an immediate ruling that dismissed Brown’s application. He said she could resubmit an application to cross-examine if she was able to provide her version to the commission.

The inquiry has been adjourned until next Thursday‚ when a new undisclosed application will be heard. Jonas and former MP Vytjie Mentor are also to return to the witness stand. The dates for Jonas to complete his evidence-in-chief and Mentor’s cross-examination have not been set.

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