'Maybe I should not have appointed Daniel Mantsha': Lynne Brown on Jacob Zuma's former attorney

22 April 2021 - 21:13
Attorney Daniel Mantasha was appointed as Denel chair despite his record as a lawyer who was disbarred for three years, the state capture inquiry heard on Thursday night. File photo
Attorney Daniel Mantasha was appointed as Denel chair despite his record as a lawyer who was disbarred for three years, the state capture inquiry heard on Thursday night. File photo
Image: Sandile Ndlovu
Daniel Mantsha, the erstwhile attorney of record for former president Jacob Zuma, should not have been appointed as Denel chair in 2015.
 
This was the partial admission of former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown who was testifying virtually before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday evening.
 
Brown appointed Mantsha as Denel board member and chair in May 2015.
 

She said, at the time, she had no idea that Mantsha had business dealings with the Gupta family, their associates or the former president's son Duduzane Zuma.

But worst of all, Brown gave Mantsha the green light despite his previous transgressions in the legal fraternity that saw him disbarred as an attorney in 2007 only for the high court to reinstate him in 2011.

Brown said she learnt about Mantsha having been struck off as an attorney a month after appointing him. Had she known this and his shady business dealings before May 2015, said Brown, maybe Mantsha would have never have set foot in Denel.

But the commission chairperson was not convinced because Brown did not pull the trigger on Mantsha when she learnt about his past transgressions, which may have been deliberately concealed to clear his way to chair Denel.

What you have said about giving people a second chance seems to mean you would not have a problem as a minister appointing as a director of Denel somebody who may have been previously convicted of corruption or theft because you believe they must be given a second chance.
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo

Brown said she was not doing Mantsha any favours because she did not know him before appointing him. She charged that she kept him in the position regardless of his previous disbarment because she was a firm believer in giving people a second chance.

“I would have expected you to be shocked when you heard he had been struck off as an attorney after you had appointed him. I would have expected you would have said, 'Why was I not told about such an important thing?'" said deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

Brown responded by saying that it was poor oversight by those responsible for legal compliance in her ministry, going on to concede that since the buck stopped with her, “maybe I should not have appointed him”.

Zondo upped the tempo: “I will be frank with you Miss Brown, I think that to the extent that somebody did not do his or her job to establish that Mr Mantsha had been struck off before and bring that to your attention, that was very bad.

“I hope it is not a situation that somebody was aware but realised that if that was disclosed he would not be appointed and decided to make sure it was not disclosed. What concerns me the most though is that when this fact is brought to your attention, you seem to have thought this would have not made a difference. You would have still appointed him.”

The former minister said she had moved from the premise of giving Mantsha “another chance to redeem himself”. 

“But he can redeem himself in his own private practice,” Zondo replied, saying a state-owned company was too important a place to give characters like Mantsha second chances.

“What you have said about giving people a second chance seems to mean you would not have a problem as a minister appointing as a director of Denel somebody who may have been previously convicted of corruption or theft because you believe they must be given a second chance.”

Brown once again took the bullet: “Maybe I did the wrong thing in appointing Mr Mantsha.”

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