Judge Tintswalo Makhubele has until next Wednesday to get her ducks in a row and appear before the state capture inquiry.
While commission chairman, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, said there was “no good cause” and “no merit whatsoever” in her request for a postponement of Friday’s proceedings, he granted it, summoning her to the inquiry on August 3.
Makhubele had essentially forced the inquiry’s hand into granting the postponement.
She had failed to adhere to the inquiry rules, which required that a postponement be requested in writing at least seven days before the date given for testimony. She further failed to come to the inquiry to motivate her request for the postponement.
Her lawyer, Gift Shakoane SC, had called her to inform her that proceedings could be moved to Saturday, but she indicated she was too distraught after experiencing a burst tyre and losing control of her vehicle on Thursday night.
Zondo did not hide his displeasure with Makhubele’s failure to appear before him, saying she had caused a huge inconvenience for the inquiry.
He stressed that he must hear her evidence as soon as possible.
Zondo gave a directive to her to file responding affidavits to all the previous witnesses who had made damning allegations about her role in corruption at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) by Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, I find it necessary that I issue a directive that she must appear before this commission on that day. I would not normally do that against a judge because if, as chairman of the commission, I request that a judge appears before the commission, I would expect that to be enough.
“It has been enough for other people who are not judges,” said Zondo, saying these people appeared or even filed affidavits without having to be compelled to do so.
Makhubele had given a number reasons why she could not attend, including that she had allegedly not been furnished with an affidavit of one of the witnesses who fingered her in corruption at Prasa.
The inquiry’s evidence leader, advocate Vas Soni, dismissed her claims.
He went through the efforts made by the evidence leaders to consult Makhubele, to provide her with all the necessary documentation and also repeatedly call her to discuss what aid she may need. He said until now, she had not expressed any unhappiness with the manner in which the evidence leaders had communicated with her.
After listening to all the explanations and efforts of the inquiry leaders, an irate Zondi said Makhubele has had the documentation of most of the witnesses for six months, and had not prepared any affidavit to respond to those affidavits.
“She has had ample opportunity, and no explanation as to why those affidavits were not prepared,” he said.
Soni, however, conceded that he could not challenge the postponement of the proceedings as Makhubele was not present for the proceedings and had indicated through her legal counsel that she was not in an emotional state to testify after Thursday’s driving incident.
He shared his views about Makhubele’s conduct, saying it was “entirely disrespectful to the commission and to you as the chairperson”, he said, addressing Zondo.
He described this as a “cavalier attitude”.
Zondo, after pressing Shakoane to provide answers, later sympathised with him, saying lawyers were at times pushed into a corner by clients.
Another witness will testify at the inquiry on Monday.