Manyi keen to toot his own horn on GCIS ... but is more cagey on ANN7
Former spokesperson says he's ready for lawyer ‘itching’ to cross-examine him as long as they ‘stick within the rules’
Businessman and former government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi went “freestyle” on the state capture inquiry on Wednesday, insisting that he be allowed to respond to allegations made against him – and lead his own evidence.
The commission’s legal team had asked that Manyi’s evidence be postponed to November 23, but he objected to this, telling judge Raymond Zondo that he, Manyi, was not being treated fairly and was “psychologically prepared” to present his evidence.
Manyi was at the inquiry after being subpoenaed over a text message he sent acting government spokesperson Phumla Williams during her testimony asking her to change the evidence she had given.
The former cabinet spokesperson said he also wanted to give his version of what happened at the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) when he was appointed CEO, as Williams had testified that he had collapsed the established government processes and directed funds to the Gupta media entities.
Evidence leader Advocate Vincent Maleka cautioned Manyi, asking if he was willing to “take the risk” to be cross-examined on a range of issues and allegations that had arisen against him in the course of the inquiry.
This included his actions to benefit The New Age newspaper and the circumstances under which the newspaper and ANN7 were sold to him. Maleka said they also wanted to question Manyi’s role in the cabinet interministerial committee dealing with the closure of the Gupta bank accounts as he had attended meetings in this regard with the banks.
Manyi, however, objected, saying he did not come to the commission to face an “omnibus” and only wanted to respond to Williams’s allegations.
The former GCIS boss said he was unapologetic about making “dramatic changes” at the department because of the “rot” he found there when he was appointed in February 2011. He said he found a “mini-VBS” at GCIS.
Manyi claimed Williams had signed off on a R26m tender when she had no authority to do so and that R64m was paid to a service provider for work that had not been done.
The businessman confirmed Williams’s evidence that he had collapsed a bid adjudication committee and taken over its functioning. He said he had done so because Williams and others had served on the committee for 10 years.
“These people have no freshness … I thought no, time for a change.”
He said GCIS became a “well-oiled machine” on his watch.
The former CEO confirmed he sent Williams a text message during her testimony at the commission, but said it had been “in good faith”. He said he had only wanted to ask her to correct the chronology of her evidence and had not known he was doing anything wrong as he was not a lawyer.
Zondo asked Manyi to return to the commission next Friday to face questions from Maleka on the evidence he presented as well as other allegations against him.
Manyi said he was ready for any questions but asked that Maleka “stick within the rules” because he knew he was “itching” to cross-examine him.
Earlier in the day, former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan wrapped up her testimony, telling the inquiry about the fierce lobbying to have South African Airways drop its busy Mumbai route so that the Indian airline Jet Airways could take over.
Hogan testified how Jet Airways chief executive Naresh Goyal tried desperately to meet her while she was in India on a state visit in 2010.
“I was also aware that a lot of the international routes were recording losses, but the Mumbai route was the least loss-making route. When I heard that SAA was going to terminate its route to Mumbai‚ I was confused,” Hogan said.
She said then SAA chairperson Cheryl Carolus told her the airline would not be dropping the Mumbai route but Jet Airways was still bidding for that to happen.
The route was dropped after she was axed from the public enterprises ministry and Malusi Gigaba appointed to replace her.
Hogan also told the inquiry she had never held any meetings with the Guptas but had encountered them at two lunches she attended with her partner, struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada.
She said it came to her attention about six months ago that the Guptas could have paid for her and Kathrada’s trip to India after the leaked Gupta e-mails showed Ashu Chawla was copied on their travel bookings. She said they were invited by the SA High Commission in India and had assumed it had footed the bill.