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No, South African media boss Koos Bekker not summoned by Zondo commission

South Africa’s Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, also known as the “Zondo commission” after its chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, was launched in February 2018 to investigate allegations of fraud and corruption in the public sector.

South Africa-based media group Naspers and its chair Koos Bekker were the subjects of a recent hearing before the commission. Former communications minister Yunus Carrim testified that, among other things, he believed Bekker had wanted “to prevent effective competition from being allowed” in the media industry.

A number of posts on Facebook, Twitter and news blogs have claimed Naspers and Bekker have refused to appear before the commission. Many posts claim, as in this example, that when former president Jacob Zuma “said the exact same thing” the Zondo commission threatened to punish him, which it has not done for Naspers.

So, how much of this is true? Has Naspers refused to appear before the commission, and how has the Zondo commission responded?

Neither Naspers nor Bekker have been issued summons

The Zondo commission has not issued a summons calling either Bekker or any other Naspers representative to testify before it. 

This is in contrast to Zuma, who has been summoned to give testimony after briefly appearing before the commission in 2020 and then leaving without permission during a tea break.

Since then, Zuma has repeatedly been called before the commission and, having refused the summons presented to him, has been ordered by South Africa’s constitutional court to comply with the summons

The constitutional court is the country’s highest court.

After Zuma announced that he did not intend to appear before the commission despite orders to do so, the commission filed a motion to have Zuma imprisoned for two years for contempt of court. This motion may be suspended should Zuma agree to testify before 31 March 2021.

For Bekker or other Naspers representatives to be in the same situation, the Zondo commission would first have to issue a summons. It would have to be refused and challenged by Naspers, but upheld by the constitutional court. And then Naspers would have to announce that it still intended not to comply.

Naspers not volunteered, but not said would ignore summons

In February, commission spokesperson Mbuyiselo Stemela told Independent Media that it was “not confirmed” whether a Naspers representative would be called to appear before the commission.

At the same time, Naspers said in a statement to Independent Media that it did not believe the company had been accused of anything illegal yet. It therefore “did not intend to exercise its rights to give evidence, to call witnesses or to cross-examine witnesses”.

The company has not said it will refuse a summons if one is issued. Africa Check reached out to Naspers to ask whether the company would respond to a summons, but has received no reply at time of writing.

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