State Capture inquiry: Judge Nana Makhubele wants evidence leader to recuse himself
Pretoria – Former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) interim board chair Judge Nana Makhubele has pushed for one of the evidence leaders at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to be recused from leading her evidence due to a broken relationship.
Judge Makhubele was on Monday on the stand before the commission to respond to allegations made by her in relation to her tenure at the helm of the state-owned passenger rail agency.
She, however, accused advocate Vas Soni, who was scheduled to lead her evidence, of being prejudiced against her, saying this led to a breakdown of her relationship with the legal team of the commission and resulted in her being unable to provide an affidavit earlier to the commission.
According to Judge Makhubela, a meeting between her and the legal team quickly degenerated into an “accusatorial session” of exchanges with Soni, who took a prosecutorial posture against her.
She said this was despite an early acknowledgement that her matter was already before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the testimony required from her was already before the forum.
“His behaviour actually confirmed my apprehension about the objectivity of the legal team and investigators.
“Advocate Soni attempted to act as a police officer, prosecutor and judicial officer. I do not believe that this is the role of the legal team,” Judge Makhubele said.
She accused Soni of behaving as the agent of those who had accused her of wrongdoing at Prasa.
Judge Makhubele has been accused of abusing her position as the chairperson of the then interim board to push for controversial payments of contractors.
Soni argued there was no basis for him to be removed as he would play no role in making the final decision regarding the allegations against Judge Makhubele.
“My role is to lead evidence and to challenge it. What becomes of that evidence, chairperson, is in your hands.
“The second issue is that it cannot be for a witness to say to the commission it may not allow one of its members unless there are good reasons not to participate in particular proceedings,” he said.
The commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, earlier dismissed the first application by Judge Makhubela to postpone her testimony to mid-September to secure her chosen senior counsel, who was busy, and in order to secure a transcript of the evidence of some of the Prasa officials who implicated her.
Justice Zondo, who had subpoenaed Judge Makhubele to appear before the commission, said he was inclined to dismiss her application for a postponement due to the time the commission had already lost trying to deal with her matter.
“We are working under serious constraints in terms of the order of the court to finish our work within a certain time. She has had enough time to really obtain counsel who would be ready to really proceed today, as I see it,” he said.
Justice Zondo said Justice Makhubela could be able to deal with the factual issues contained in her evidence without legal representations as she was both trained in law and a judge.
On the recusal application, Justice Zondo said he would adjourn the commission’s proceedings briefly to enable Judge Makhubela’s team and the legal team to look for case law, or authorities, relating to the recusal of an evidence leader in a forum like the commission.
The inquiry continues.