Former government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi stole the show at the state capture inquiry on Friday after he seemingly attempted to influence the testimony of acting Government Communication and Information System director-general Phumla Williams.
The commission is investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector.
During the commission’s tea break Manyi, who is also the chairperson of now-defunct television channel Afro Worldview sent Williams – who was giving testimony on the day – a text message saying: “Hi Phumla, please indicate [to the commission] that [then GCIS] chief financial officers Zweli Momeko and breakfasts [The New Age (TNA) Business Breakfast shows on SABC] happened after my era.”
Before the tea break Williams had been testifying on her experience at the GCIS after Themba Maseko was effectively fired and placed in a different government department by former president Jacob Zuma.
On his removal from his the GCIS as chief executive, Maseko was replaced by Manyi, who is a staunch supporter of the former president and a known Gupta associate.
Williams revealed how, on arrival, Manyi overhauled the GCIS, replacing the entire department’s bidding committee with officials loyal to him as well as placing his office in charge of “signing off on any tenders”.
Williams also revealed how Manyi used his position to meddle in the affairs of the internal auditing team.
After making these revelations, the commission adjourned for a tea break. It was during this break that Manyi sent Williams the suggestive text.
When the commission resumed after the break proceedings were halted as Williams revealed to the commission that she believed her former boss, Manyi, “was trying to influence her testimony” and went on to explain that during the break she had received the text message.
Manyi took to Twitter about the text message he had sent to Williams.
He claimed that his intentions were merely to correct Williams’s “misleading” testimony.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo instructed the commission’s legal team and investigators to get a copy of the text message so it could be kept by the legal team “in case something happens to Williams’ phone”.
Another witness at the commission, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, broke down on Tuesday and expressed fear for her safety because there was damage to the door handle of the hotel the commission had rented out for her stay.
In 2017 Manyi acquired the Guptas’ media assets The New Age (TNA) newspaper and ANN7.
The newspaper has since been placed under provisional liquidation and the television station has stopped broadcasting.
Zondo informed those attending the commission that on Friday Manyi had requested special accreditation to attend the state capture inquiry.
Zondo explained that he was not sure why Manyi made the formal request because any member of the public was allowed to attend the inquiry.
The commission was investigating whether money was improperly directed to ANN7 and The New Age from the government and state-owned enterprises.
However, it remains unclear whether Manyi would testify at the commission.