Johannesburg - The best way to get to the truth is for the commission of inquiry into state capture to allow cross-examination of witnesses as it is done in court trials, Ajay Gupta's legal representative Mike Hellens said on Thursday.
Advocates for the implicated individuals were on Thursday arguing before commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as to why they should be allowed to cross-examine witnesses on behalf of their clients. Hellens, on behalf of Gupta, wants to cross-examine previous witnesses - former government spin doctor Themba Maseko and ex-ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.
Hellens said Gupta has filed statements with the commission disputing Maseko and Mentor's evidence.
''In considering the request to cross-examine a witness, the commission is asked to consider the following - that the function of the commission is to establish the truth. Although the commission's work is that of an inquiry and not a criminal trial, it has been shown that cross-examination is historically to be the best mechanism in testing the reliability and veracity of evidence tendered by witnesses,'' said Hellens.
''Without cross-examination of contentious evidence, the commission will be deprived of the essential tool of testing the evidence. The statement of Ajay Gupta raises clear disputed facts underpinned by his own evidence, and demonstrating the need to test the reliability of the witnesses that has given evidence before the commission.''
Furthermore, said Hellens, witnesses should not be consulted with prior to being cross-examined, as this would have the potential of enabling the witnesses ''to adjust'' their evidence. Such an act would weaken the significance and power carried by cross-examination, he told the inquiry.
Mentor testified that she was offered a public enterprises minister post by Ajay Gupta, should she agree to cancel the SA Airways' Mumbai route, while Zuma sat in the next room at the Gupta's Saxonwold compound. Mentor told the commission she declined the offer. Gupta also allegedly offered Jonas a promotion to finance minister to replace Nhlanhla Nene, who was seen as an obstacle to the family who wanted to increase their rake-ins from government contracts from R6 billion to R8 billion. Jonas said the offer was accompanied by a R600 million bribe. He testified that turned down both offers.
Advocates for the Guptas, former president Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane, businessman Fana Hlongwane, former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown, former Zuma aide Lakela Kaunda and two Hawks officials are applying to cross-examine Maseko, Mentor, GCIS acting CEO Phumla Williams and former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
The former president has not indicated to the commission whether he would want to cross-examine witnesses.