Zondo takes legal team to task over claims Phiyega mistreated Hawks boss Lebeya
Johannesburg - Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has slammed the legal team of the commission of inquiry into state capture for failing to speak to former national commissioner of police Riah Phiyega over allegations that she had ill-treated her then deputy and now Hawks head advocate Godfrey Lebeya.
Lebeya took the stand at the Zondo commission on Thursday, where he was expected to testify on alleged interference by the executive in the affairs of police and the elite crime-fighting unit.
In his statement to the commission, Lebeya – a former head of detective services and a former deputy national commissioner of police – detailed how he was mistreated and sidelined within the SAPS, including by Phiyega, allegedly owing to his investigations that implicated top cops, including former crime boss Richard Mdluli.
The cases included the murder of Oupa Ramogibe‚ who allegedly had an affair with the customary wife of Mdluli.
Mdluli was found guilty of the 1999 kidnapping and assault of Ramogibe.
Zondo, who chairs the commission, slammed the legal team’s advocate, Suzan Wentzel, for being unable to make the determination of which parts of Lebeya’s statement to the commission, including allegations of mistreatment within the SA Police Service, fell within the terms of reference of the commission.
“Has any investigator gone to Ms Phiyega and ask her ‘why did you do this to Dr Lebeya?’… There are a number of questions that could be asked.
"Now it may be that when she is interviewed and asked about these things, maybe some answer that she will give will help clear this thing up,” Justice Zondo said.
While Wentzel told the commission that Phiyega had indicated her intention to give evidence at the commission, Justice Zondo said the legal team had the duty to approach her regarding the allgations levelled against her.
“It is wrong that she has not been approached. The legal team is wrong not to have done that and the investigators are wrong not to have done that, but more than the investigators I blame the legal team because the legal team must guide the investigators,” he said.
He said the legal team should have looked into the allegations before making arrangements for Lebeya to take the stand.
“Members of the legal team must ask with regard to each witness, how this witness’s evidence fits into the terms of reference.
"For each witness that question must be asked and no member of the legal team should not be ready to deal with that question,” said Justice Zondo.
Lebeya was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018 to replace former Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza, who was dismissed by then police minister Fikile Mbalula after the North Gauteng High Court declared his appointment by former president Jacob Zuma to be unlawful and invalid.
Ntlemeza was temporarily replaced by Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata before Lebeya’s appointment.
Lebeya was expected to restore the Hawks’ battered reputation, which was attributed to the political manipulation of the unit and considered to have dented its credibility.
Around 11 am, Justice Zondo temporarily adjourned the commission’s proceedings to allow the legal team to discuss with Lebeya and his team which parts of his evidence fell within the terms of reference of the commission.