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Commissions of Inquiry

We love appointing commissions of inquiry in the Republic. But that is not a bad thing, and nor is it new. The Commissions Act 19471 still operates to this day, over 60 years after its promulgation – in fact, commissions of inquiry are (apparently) a feature of English law, dating back to the 12th Century.2 No surprise, commissioners and their investigative teams have extensive powers.

  1. If you are summoned to give evidence, or to produce any book, document or object at a commission of inquiry, it is a crime:3
    • (without sufficient cause) to fail to do so, unless the chairman of the commission excuses you;
    • to fail to remain in attendance until the conclusion of the inquiry, or until excused by the chairman;
    • to refuse to be sworn or make an affirmation about your evidence;
    • to answer fully and satisfactorily any question lawfully put to you;
    • to fail to produce any book, document or object in your possession or control required by the subpoena; and
    • to give false evidence.
  2. Any person who wilfully interrupts the proceedings of a commission or who wilfully hinders or obstructs a commission in the performance of its functions commits an offence.4
  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 49 of 1996. 

  2. According to Roderick Macleod, writing on eNews Channel Africa. See www.enca.com – ‘Parking a hot potato: Are commissions of inquiry (in)effective?’ 

  3. Section 6. 

  4. Section 5.