In the third week of the public hearings for the Zondo Commission into state capture, implicated parties grabbed the spotlight by replying publicly to testimony and applying to cross-examine witnesses.

After acting DG of the Government Information and Communication System (GCIS) Phumla Williams implicated former communications minister Faith Muthambi not only of mistreatment towards her after she challenged some decisions taken by CFO Zweli Momeko, but also of damaging GCIS to such an extent that it would take some time to recover.

The organisation was dysfunctional and operating on auto, she said, while Muthambi was minister – there was no strategic direction from the leader.

Williams was on the point of resigning when she realised that if she did so, she would be failing the country. She remains in the acting position that she has occupied well beyond the time limit prescribed in regulations.

Muthambi wasted no time in striking back, saying that she was gravely disappointed and alarmed at Williams’ testimony, and that she had misused an opportunity to provide the commission with credible testimony to insteead target Muthambi in a “unjustified” attack. Muthambi described Williams’ testimony as a “travesty to derail the pursuit of truth”.

Williams was one of the “most shameful manipulators and liars that I have ever had the displeasure to encounter,” Muthambi declared, adding that the entire country now knew Williams’ true colours, and going as far as to conclude that she was “emotionally unhinged”.

Applications to cross-examine witnesses

While Muthambi was ranting at what she perceived to be a malicious and unfounded attack on her person, lawyers for other implicated persons were petitioning the commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, for leave to cross-examine witnesses who had linked them to the Guptas’ shady dealings.

The Gupta family, Duduzane Zuma, Fana Hlongwane, former presidential chief of staff Lakela Kaunda and the Hawks’ advocate Mandla Mtolo all applied for permission to cross-examine.

The Guptas, who fled the country when their machinations were exposed, are not prepared to come to South Africa for the cross-examination but would appear via an international link. These unreasonable conditions were problematic, and the state capture inquiry should not allow the Gupta brothers to cross-examine witnesses who have implicated them in state capture because of this – those were the views of the Zondo Commission’s advocate Vincent Maleka, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former MP Vytjie Mentor and former government spokesperson Themba Maseko.

Zondo is expected to deliver his decisions on the applications on Monday 10 September.