The refusal to answer questions fully or satisfactorily at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture could land witnesses in hot water
Johannesburg – The refusal to answer questions fully or satisfactorily at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture could land witnesses in hot water – they could be fined or face jail time of up to a year.
This also applies to persons who obstruct the commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and his personnel while conducting investigations or demanding documents be made available to them.
These are some of the conditions carried in the amended regulations of the commission contained in the government gazette published on February 4.
The regulations, signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on January 30, provide for 12 months imprisonment or a fine for witnesses who refuse to answer fully and satisfactorily questions lawfully put to them.
The regulations, which became effective last Tuesday, impose the same sanctions on those who refuse or fail to submit an affidavit within a period fixed on directives issued by Zondo.
The commission’s staff will also not go unpunished should they, too, not comply with the regulations.
According to the law, staff are obliged to “preserve secrecy concerning any matter or information that may come to his or her knowledge in the performance of his or her duties”.
Those who fall foul of this regulation will also be fined or face imprisonment.
The regulations also make it an offence to disregard a ruling by Zondo that no person shall disclose the names and addresses of witnesses, as well as any information that may reveal the identity of the witnesses.
The regulations also set out the remuneration of persons appointed by the commission, including judges and lawyers.
And they come at a time the commission made an application in the high court requesting an extension of its term of office until December.
The commission was initially granted an extension up to the end of this month.
“If we are not granted an extension it would be a disaster, because we would not be able to make any proper findings, but I hope that it will be granted,” Zondo said.
Former president Jacob Zuma appointed the commission as part of remedial action recommended by former public protector Thuli Madonsela. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng appointed Zondo as the chairperson of the commission.
The commission commenced its work officially in 2018 and has heard evidence from more than 150 witnesses already.
Last September, it was reported that the commission had spent R356.126million as of August 2019.
A total of R244.573m was spent in the 2018-19 financial year and R111.553m by August last year.