8 Important pointers for questioning witnesses
1. When your witness takes the stand, ask him a few straightforward questions to put him at ease. Ask him to state his position in the organisation.
2. Follow a logical pattern of questioning, as previously discussed with the witness during your preparation.
Refer to your notes frequently so you don't go off track and you don't confuse the witness. Do not rely on your memory.
3. Your questions must be clear and concise and never ask a question to which you do not know the answer.
4. Remember to lead questions and not the witness.
5. For facts in dispute, it is usually better to ask the witness to simply relate in his own words what occurred. This usually provides the necessary clarity.
6. Whilst the witness relates his testimony, you can interrupt him to ask clarifying questions. The purpose of a clarifying question is to make sure the Commissioner understands what the witness is saying, or for you to emphasise any strong point in the witness's testimony.
7. Always ask the witness to explain any grey areas in his evidence.
8. Do not ask the witness to give an opinion unless he is an expert witness. Should the other party, during cross-examination, ask any of your witnesses to give an opinion, you must immediately object because the witness is not an expert witness. By objecting to a non-expert witness during expert testimony, you prevent unsubstantiated or unsupported evidence from being introduced, and thus prevent opinions facts being implanted in the mind of the Commissioner.
There you have it, use these pointers to ensure you maximise your evidence during the hearing so the outcome of the hearing may be in your favour.
For more step-by-step details on how to prepare for a CCMA arbitration, turn to chapter C02: CCMA arbitration in your Labour Law for Managers
handbook. Don't have a copy yet? Click here.