Former Government Communication and Information System chief executive Mzwanele Manyi has explained in an affidavit the reasoning behind the SMS he sent to Phumla Williams during her testimony at the state capture inquiry. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

After the infamous SMS to a witness testifying before the commission into state capture that so riled the chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Mzwanele Manyi, the sender, is working frantically to explain the content. 

He has since deposed a sworn affidavit and aims to give his own testimony before the commission sitting in Parktown, Joburg.
In the affidavit, signed last Sunday in Morningside, Manyi takes issue with the testimony of the acting chief executive of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), Phumla Williams. 

“I express shock and serious disappointment that Ms Phumla Williams has maliciously misconstrued my noble intentions and has now created a wrong impression that I was trying to influence her testimony,” Manyi said. 

Having quit his position as director-general of the GCIS in August 2012, Manyi insists that all he hoped to achieve with the ill-fated SMS was for Williams to put matters into their proper perspective, “indicate the chronology of events”. 

The SMS says: “Hi Phumla Please indicate that the CFO Zweli Momeka and breakfasts happened AFTER my era.” The breakfasts referred to are The New Age (TNA) Gupta-owned business gigs that aired on SABC2. 

Acting government communications head Phumla Williams at the state capture inquiry. Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)

Manyi’s affidavit suggests it was crucial that Williams explained the said fact: “It is at this point that I thought in order for the chair, the commission and indeed the country should not be misled that I thought I should ask Phumla to simply manage her chronology of events to reflect the truthful and factual position to the effect that Mr Zweli Momeka and whatever he was alleged to have done are all matters that happened AFTER my era.” 

He was initially informed of what was coming before the commission by an official, Manyi says in the affidavit: “Some two weeks ago I received notification from the judicial commission of inquiry through a telephone call by Mr Nhlakanipho Kunene which was followed by an email from advocate Busani Mabunda that Ms Phumla Williams, the acting DG of GCIS, would be implicating me in her testimony which she would be delivering on August 31, 2018.” 

While Williams seems to have endeared herself to those following developments at the commission, especially around how former communications minister Faith Muthambi bullied her, Manyi spares no punches in tearing her testimony to shreds, particularly regarding the SMS. 

“Ms Phumla Williams then spoke about the bullying of the procurement team, but she did not, at the time, reveal who did the bullying and on whose authority the alleged bullying was condoned.”

When it occurred to him that Williams was muddying the waters, Manyi texted her. “In this regard I called Ms Phumla Williams with an intention to ask her, that after (the) break she needed to indicate the chronology of events. Unfortunately, she did not pick up my call. Out of desperation to ensure that there is no conflation of issues and misleading the chairperson and the commission, I went further and texted Ms Phumla Williams.”

But she was not the only one he touched base with on the first day of Williams’s testimony, Manyi swears in the affidavit. “I also called advocate Busani Mabunda who has been my formal contact person as regards judicial commission issues. 

“I have discussed my request to present my version with Mr Nhlakanipho Kunene, an official of the judicial commission, by phone which is a mode of communication by which he always contacted me, and followed that through with an email to advocate Mabunda on August 31, 2018 after watching and listening (on TV) to Ms Phumla Williams’s testimony. “I am looking forward to the opportunity of right of reply.”

The affidavits adds: “I place it on record that the GCIS is still in the process of compiling the documentary evidence I have requested from them in order for me to submit a fact-based submission. I must hasten to say that the GCIS has already provided me with about 90% of the information I have requested.”

The Sunday Independent