ith the proliferation of Commissions of Inquiry in recent years in South Africa there appears to be much confusion among consumers of news as regards what exactly the purpose of these things is. Allied to that is the confusion about what the role of evidence leaders in Commissions of Inquiry is and that of the media in its coverage and analysis of Commissions of Inquiry. This opinion piece seeks to answer each of these questions based on the experience that the author has had with Commissions and other similar interventions. The point made in the opinion is this: a Commission of Inquiry is not a court of law. Rules of evidence do not apply as strictly as they do in a trial court. The Commissioner does not make judgment; s/he makes recommendations which are not binding on the President. There are no accused persons, prosecutors, defence teams, convictions or acquittals. Every witness must be treated the same by evidence leaders and by the Commissioner. Talk of cross-examination in a Commission of Inquiry is inappropriate. This opinion piece in intended to help the reader think more critically about what s/he reads in the media about the goings-on at Commissions of Inquiry.
The purpose is not to persuade the reader to see things the author’s way as the author appreciates that there may be other more compelling arguments about the role of each of the role-players discussed in this opinion piece.
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