Zondo commission: Speculation rife over Norma Mngoma’s decision to pull out at the 11th hour
Johannesburg - As the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture is expected to detail when it will officially issue summons to Norma Mngoma, speculation remains as to why she has chosen to refrain from giving testimony before the commission.
The estranged wife of former finance minister Malusi Gigaba was on Tuesday expected to spill the beans on her husband’s alleged visits to the Gupta Saxonwold compound during his time in high-ranking ministerial positions, but pulled out at the eleventh hour.
Mngoma said she had “personal concerns with how various aspects regarding her proposed appearance at the commission is being handled, or allegedly mishandled, by the Commission”.
However, Deputy chief Justice Raymond Zondo indicated that she would have no option but to appear.
Zondo authorised a summons to be issued, compelling Mngoma to appear before the commission, despite her sudden withdrawal.
Her legal representative Gcwalisile Makhathini told the commission that Mngoma informed them of her withdrawal on Monday night and was then tasked to write to the commission on Tuesday morning.
Makhathini further said she had no further information for the commission, as she was yet to consult with Mngoma in detail.
Zondo expressed disappointment in her last-minute decision, saying it was surprising as he was informed that Mngoma was ready to proceed with her evidence last Friday, when she was initially scheduled to appear.
Zondo had to reschedule her appearance to on Tuesday, after former State Security minister David Mahlobo’s evidence ran into the late evening.
“I wonder what could have happened in the meantime,” he said, before authorising the summons that would compel her to appear before the commission.
Evidence leader Anton Myburgh, who delivered the news to the commission said they were also surprised at Mngoma’s letter, saying they were prepared for her to give evidence virtually from Cape Town.
“She was scheduled to give evidence on Friday afternoon and the next thing we heard is of this letter.
“And I think precious little could have happened between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning. But, that we could deal with in time,” Myburgh said.
He also requested Zondo schedule Mngoma’s appearance “sooner rather than later” so they can issue the summons with a confirmed date of her appearance.
He added that Gigaba’s application, to have Mngoma’s testimony heard in-camera, also be heard on the day of her appearance.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Eskom’s former chief financial officer Anoj Singh, who appeared before the commission earlier in the day, was asked to continue with his testimony until the evening amid Mngoma’s withdrawal.
Singh faced another grilling on Eskom-related matters and was caught fumbling over his words when questioned about his travels to Dubai in 2014, that coincided with trips by members of the Gupta family and their associates.
Evidence leader advocate Pule Seleka said Singh even shared a return flight with Rajesh Gupta.
Singh denied travelling with the Gupta family and their associates, to which Seleka responded that “it’s either coincidence or divination” that Singh’s travel agent would arrange their trips at the same time.
The travel agent, who deposed to an affidavit, said it was either Singh or Gupta-associate Salim Essa who would book the flights.
“Maybe it is a coincidence or that word you said (divination).
“I can categorically state that Mr Essa would not have requested travel for me or on my behalf,” Singh said.
He did admit that he and his wife did book international trips using the same travel agent and insisted he paid for his own trips. However, Singh said he could not provide proof of payment because he may not have the receipts and his bank accounts were closed. When Zondo asked if he would cooperate with the commission should they contact the banks to access information, Singh said he would consider it.
Singh was also called to answer why deals with consulting firm McKinsey were not in line with a Treasury directive.
He said that the national Treasury instruction on the appointment of consultancies like McKinsey was “ambiguous” and he believed there was no need to approach the national Treasury for approval to appoint consultants when deviating from the norm. This is despite it being both an instruction from the national Treasury and part of Eskom’s policy guidelines.
Eskom paid McKinsey and the Gupta-linked company Trillian R1.6 billion, after it terminated the relationship with the companies in 2016, after only six months.
McKinsey has paid back R1 billion, while Eskom has gone to court to reclaim Trillian’s share.
The contract was again brought into question, when Seleka asked if it was approved by national Treasury.