Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo has cautioned the Economic Freedom Fighters and its leader Julius Malema against intimidating witnesses and lawyers appearing before the state capture inquiry. He said if this behaviour continued, the commission would lay criminal charges against those responsible.
Zondo’s warning follows a stinging attack Malema directed at public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and commission evidence leader Paul Pretorius outside the commission venue in Parktown last week. Gordhan spent several days testifying about the pressure he was put under as finance minister to approve deals that would benefit those accused of capturing the state.
Malema labelled Gordhan a “dog of white monopoly capital” who hated black people. He also referred to Pretorius as a “bastard”, claiming that he was too soft on Gordhan.
Speaking shortly after a short adjournment on Tuesday, Zondo said such attacks were unacceptable. He said those who had issues to raise or evidence proving wrongdoing should rather approach the commission and ask to testify.
“While this commission has no desire to get involved in any political disputes that may exist between Mr Gordhan and any of his political rivals, this commission wants to make it clear that it is unacceptable for anybody to subject any witness appearing before it to any form of harassment or intimidation whatsoever.
“A witness who appears before this commission and gives evidence does so in order to help this commission with the matters it is investigating and such witness acts in the public interest. If no witnesses were to give evidence before this commission, this country and the whole nation will not be able to get to know if state capture occurred, how it occurred, who was involved and to what extent,” added Zondo.
On Monday, Gordhan laid charges of crimen injuria‚ incitement of violence and criminal defamation against Malema at the Brooklyn police station in Tshwane.
Malema has laid counter-charges against Gordhan.