As another witness refuses to appear at state capture inquiry, have the floodgates of defiance opened?
After former president Jacob Zuma last week became the first witness to show the state capture inquiry the middle finger by defying the summons issued to him, a second witness has done the same.
Swifambo Rail director Auswell Mashaba on Wednesday kept his promise to the inquiry that he will not appear.
Mashaba’s lawyers sent a letter to the inquiry stating he “does not recognise” that the summons issued against him “constitutes a lawful and legally binding document” - exactly the same reason advanced by Zuma in his defiance.
The inquiry’s chairperson, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, expressed concern there could be more people who may be emboldened Mashaba.
If that becomes the case, said Zondo, the inquiry may rendered useless.
“This may well be the start of more people who will defy summons issued by the commission by refusing to appear,” said Zondo.
“This obviously undermines, in a significant way, the work of the commission when people with knowledge of transactions and events relevant to the work of the commission refuse to appear.
“This may defeat the objectives of the commission.
“I note that in the letter, Mr Mashaba’s attorney does not put up any legal grounds that the summons is not valid. That is what Mr Zuma’s attorneys also did. They said the summons are irregular without giving grounds.
We may well see more defiance. I hope not.Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo
“We may well see more defiance. I hope not.”
Mashaba stands accused of having benefitted from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) gravy train through improperly awarded contracts to his company.
He was issued the summons on February 10.
Zondo said defying a summons of the commission without going to court to have it set aside should not be tolerated.
“Everything should be done by the commission and the law enforcement agencies to put a stop to it because if it spreads it will be the beginning of chaos in our legal system,” he said.
“If it spreads, soon it will be happening in magistrate’s courts and all other courts in our country because it would seem sections in our society will believe it is acceptable conduct to simply defy summons.
“The secretary of the commission is instructed to lay a criminal complaint against Mr Auswell Mashaba for his failure to appear before the commission today, in accordance with the terms of the summons served on him, and that needs to be done urgently because this type of conduct cannot be allowed to go on for too long.”