Minister Nomvula Mokonyane File picture: GCIS

Durban – Lawyers for Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane have written to the Zondo commission of inquiry saying that the country’s media has taken the commission's place in investigating allegations of state capture.

The letter, dated 21 January (Monday), from Madlanga and Partners Inc Attorneys (MPI), says that the minister’s “right to procedural fairness has been breached” and that the media has “usurped the role and functions of the commission and this conduct has adversely prejudiced our client”.

The commission heard damning testimony from former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi on Monday in which he accused Mokonyane of taking bribes from the company to secure tenders and stave off potential investigations into Bosasa.

Agrizzi alleged Mokonyane received, among other things, R50,000 per month from Bosasa between 2002 - when she was Gauteng MEC for safety and security - until he left the company in 2016.

The alleged bribes were paid at the request of Bosasa boss Gavin Watson, who believed Mokonyane had enough political clout to benefit the company.

While Agrizzi’s appearance before the commission was kept under wraps until he started testifying last week, his affidavit was later leaked to the media and used in front-page articles in Sunday papers.

The allegations against Mokonyane and other officials were listed in the stories and several journalists contacted her for comment for the Sunday stories.

The commission has been battling with media leaks, which led to a clampdown and internal investigation into who was leaking affidavits, testimonies and other information.

Justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the commission, said he would address the media leaks when Agrizzi continued with his testimony on Tuesday.

Mokonyane’s lawyers said in the letter: “Our client has a legitimate expectation that the Commission would take reasonable steps and exercise a duty of care to safeguard information in its custody in particular in circumstances where our client has been denied the right flowing from Rule 3.3 of the Commission.”

Rule 3.3 allows for issuing notices to those implicated in testimony. However, those who have been implicated via Agrizzi’s testimony were not issued with the notices.

Instead, they were contacted on the day Agrizzi started his testimony and told they may be implicated. This, according to the commission, was for safety reasons, as Agrizzi had been receiving threats.

Mokonyane’s lawyers said they had not been given reasons for the deviation from the rule and the minister had not been given the opportunity to make a representation before the decision was taken.  This was a breach of Mokonyane’s constitutional right to procedural fairness, they said in the letter.

“Having not been afforded the opportunity to access the affidavit of Mr [Agrizzi] by the commission, our client felt betrayed by the fact that the newspapers which are not affected parties had access to the contents of the affidavit and expected her to respond to such allegations,” the letter said.

“It is apparent to our client that there are officials of the commission who are bent to undermine the inquiry of the commission and trump the rights of the implicated persons,” it said. 

African News Agency/ANA