Zondo furious as judge uses Jacob Zuma's 'Stalingrad tactic' at inquiry

03 August 2020 - 15:25
Judge Nana Makhubele was supposed to testify at the Zondo commission on Monday but will now appear on Wednesday.
Image: Photo from Judges Matter video Judge Nana Makhubele was supposed to testify at the Zondo commission on Monday but will now appear on Wednesday.

The infamous “Stalingrad strategy” synonymous with former president Jacob Zuma appears to be playing out at the state capture inquiry where judge Nana Makhubele is to give evidence.

Makhubele, who was initially meant to appear before the commission on July 24 but said she was unable to be there in person, was present on Monday morning but refused to give testimony, raising several technical concerns.

She was due to be grilled for her alleged role in the collapse of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), where she was chairperson of the board.

Makhubele on Monday morning moved an application to have her hearing postponed again, this time her reason being that her new lawyer — former NPA boss Mxolisi Nxasana — was appointed only at the weekend after she fired her previous legal team.

Commission chairperson, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, dismissed this application on the basis that it had no leg to stand on, as she had had ample time to prepare for her appearance.

Makhubele then moved to object to her evidence being led by advocate Vas Soni SC on the basis that he was biased towards her.

Zondo was forced to extend the usually one-hour long lunch break to more than two hours to allow Makhubele to deal with issues before making a final decision on the way forward.

A combative Makhubele said: “Chairperson, you said I made myself available to consult with the legal team, which I did. When I met advocate Soni we did not agree and I pulled out.

“If that relationship did not break down we would not be here. Advocate Soni is the reason I pulled out. Chairperson has already made adverse remarks about me pulling out. I request time to brief my attorney, alternatively you give me an opportunity to present it myself which would be denying me a right to legal representation, but I am not going to allow advocate Soni to lead my evidence.

“There is a lot that he said about me on July 24 and those remarks were not the truth,” she alleged. “I also deal with his conduct when they consulted with me and I immediately pulled [out] and I believe the application must be entertained. You cannot simply dismiss everything I say.”

Soni defended himself, saying he was only going to question Makhubele and not make the final finding, which was the preserve of Zondo, making her concerns of bias invalid.

“My role is to lead evidence. What comes of that evidence, chairperson, is in your hands. Second issue is that it cannot be for a witness to say to the commission that it may not allow one of its members to participate in particular proceedings,” said Soni.

A furious Zondo, who stated more than twice that Makhubele and Nxasana were wasting the commission’s limited time, resorted to the long lunch break.

Upon the resumption of the hearing after lunch, Nxasana dramatically withdrew as Makhubele’s lawyer.

This, too, had Makhubele complaining about being denied “my constitutional right to legal representation”.

“I am now exposed,” she said.

Zondo momentarily granted her wish to not have Soni question her and asked that she state her version and only he, the commission chairperson, would ask questions.

But Makhubele was not happy, again, this time complaining that she had not had sight of the transcript of oral evidence of those who implicated her at the commission.

Zondo was eventually forced to adjourn the hearing of Makhubele’s evidence scheduling it to be heard at 5pm on Wednesday, a day in which a new evidence leader will question her - or Zondo would do so himself.