Judge Tintswalo Makhubele, who was expected to give evidence relating to allegations of corruption at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), was a no show at the state capture inquiry on Friday.
Makhubele sent her legal counsel, advocate Gift Shakoane, to request a postponement. Shakoane made representations to deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo in a letter citing several reasons for his client not appearing.
The inquiry heard Makhubele needed time to consult her legal team.
Shakoane told the inquiry that senior counsels were briefed on the matter on Wednesday, two days before she was scheduled to appear. This was despite the lawyers receiving instruction from Shakoane on July 15.
Shakoane said Makhubele had not been alerted when evidence against her was to be delivered to the inquiry by a witnesses, advocate Francois Botes.
Botes testified that Makhubele had told him that former president Jacob Zuma had appointed her to sort out the mess at Prasa.
Zondo questioned Shakoane’s real reason for seeking the postponement, not understanding why proper consultations were not held earlier this month.
“We are not talking about a lay person, not an attorney or advocate, but a judge,” said Zondo.
Zondo said Makhubele was aware that a notice to lodge an application needed to be made at least seven days before a person was due to appear. He said a postponement was required to be held in her presence so the inquiry could cross-examine her about its questions. It was also imperative for her to attend in case the request was denied and proceedings continued.
Shakoane said Makhubele had been in Mokopane and while travelling back on Thursday, her vehicle experienced a puncture and she lost control of the vehicle.
“She is not injured but has suffered trauma. Her family is bringing her back this morning,” Shakoane said.
“The sense I gained is that she will probably need to consult a doctor, but I did not get the full details,” he said.
Zondo stood the proceedings down to allow Shakoane to contact the judge.
“Before we proceed, please contact your client so we know what the position is. I wanted her to be here because we don’t know what the outcome of the application will be. If it is refused, she must be present so we can proceed,” said Zondo.
Zondo said he had made arrangements with the judge president to ensure Makhubele was present.
“I know she is not working because I spoke to her judge president some weeks back to inform him this is the date set aside for her to come. The judge president said today falls within the court recess.”
Following the postponement, Shakoane returned to inform the inquiry that Makhubele said her vehicle’s tyre had burst and the vehicle’s suspension was damaged, and she was not in an emotional state to testify.
Zondo replied that her application was not based on the accident, but “one would have expected that she would have informed her lawyers of that so this was one of the reasons given from the start”.
Zondo said Makhubele would have known as far back as February that the inquiry would have wanted her to give evidence when the first witness gave evidence in which she was implicated.
Several other witnesses subsequently testifed against her, and she was also served their affidavits.
Zondo said the judge knew how important it was to act with diligence and urgency when dealing with a commission, tribunal or forum.
“It causes me serious concern about her and her application,” Zondo said. “She had several months to prepare and comes at the last minute to request postponement of the hearing of her evidence. This would mean that for this commission, this whole day is wasted. We don’t have a lot of time. We are working under a court order that requires we finish in a certain time,” he said.
The application continues.