Adv Squealer SC

Jeremy Gordin writes on Dali Mpofu's legal interventions on behalf of Tom Moyane and Thandi Modise

Earlier this week Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan appeared at the Zondo Commission into State Capture to be cross-examined on his earlier statement that former SARS commissioner Tom Moyane was central to capturing the treasury for former President Jacob Zuma and allies.

Representing Moyane was Dali Mpofu SC who soon went to verbal war with Gordhan.

For example, in a meeting at SARS, Gordhan had apparently chastised Moyane for making comments about a judge via his spokesperson. A transcript of the verbal exchange had Gordhan telling Moyane to “grow up and not to be cheeky”.

Mpofu repeated the words to Gordhan: Well, grow up, Mr Gordhan, don’t be cheeky. How does that feel?” asked Mpofu.

Mpofu said such comments were belittling. “I can tell you how it feels for people like me. Let me give you advice: you must never again belittle African people the way you did ... by telling them to grow up…”

When Gordhan was asked if he believed Moyane had been part of state capture before the Nugent Commission ruled unfavourably on Moyane’s management at SARS, Gordhan kept referring to the Nugent Commission’s rulings. “If I were you, I wouldn’t go to the Nugent Commission,” Mpofu said. Gordhan replied: “You are not me.”

Throughout the cross-examination, the two would speak over each other, and what they were supposed to be saying became incomprehensible.

In one instance, Gordhan said Mpofu obviously couldn’t hear properly because he’d been told to let Gordhan finish his answers. Gordhan: “Maybe you’re hard of hearing?” Mpofu: “You cannot say I’m hard of hearing. I’m not your child or one of the Africans you undermine.”

And so the exchange continued. Three points.

First, Judge Zondo, who has been praised for his “patience,” is too patient. Both Gordhan and Mpofu should have been corralled. If, for example, anyone is to blame for the charade that ensued when Zuma first came to testify – and then the brouhaha that followed recently – it is Zondo. He initially handled Zuma with distinctly oleaginous kid gloves – en kyk hoe lyk almal nou.

This is not to suggest, incidentally, that Gordhan is an angel. He’s an ANC apparatchik, albeit a smart one, and, as best we know, not a thief (though he might be overly fond, like some comrades, of those free flights on SAA). Nonetheless he’s entitled to some respect, as is everyone who comes before a court or commission. Mpofu at one point said to him he “was just a witness [not an important lawyer, like Mpofu] – and must answer the questions,” not question the relevance of the question. I know what I would have replied to that – but Gordhan obviously decided not to do so.

Second, there does exist a difficulty regarding the definition of “state capture”. What is state capture exactly? At the very start of the commission there were some fumbling attempts at formulating a definition, but nothing conclusive.

According to Gordhan, part of state capture is to take control of an institution either at board or CEO level and to protect yourself from investigations into what might be going on in the organisation.

Sounds okay to me, but when Gordhan was asked what specific evidence he had of Moyane being involved in “state capture,” he had trouble offering concrete proof. “The day,” said Gordhan, “[Moyane] took office was a calamity for SARS” as events demonstrated.

Well, this seems clear. But was Moyane involved in state capture [taking control of a state institution for the benefit of a group of pillagers, plotting to do so] or was he merely a venal and incompetent creature who took advantage of the lekker job handed to him by uncle Jacob? (I have a feeling in my pockets that Zondo might let him off, as it were, for precisely this reason.)

Third, it’s obvious that, besides accusing Gordhan of being petty, corrupt, and arrogant, Mpofu’s trump card was to accuse Gordhan of being “racist” (as apparently suggested by Moyane).

Gordhan even responded: “All allegations have no factual basis. I am emphatically a non-racialist; my 50 years in the (ANC) movement is proof of that. The racism is part of fake news rhetoric and these are merely a cover-up for what Moyane really did.”

WTF? Why not – especially if you’re Gordhan – treat such an accusation with the contempt it deserves? Ah, now there’s the $64 000 question – and the one that takes us to pigs. Not necessarily people pigs – though if the cap fits – but to actual pigs, many dead ones, I’m sorry to say.

On Wednesday, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise appeared in the Potchefstroom Regional Court where she is being privately prosecuted by AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit on behalf of the NSPCA. Surprise, surprise, the National Prosecuting Authority wasn’t interested in pursuing the matter.

Modise has not said sorry for what appears prima facie to be a clear case. She could, presumably, have apologised and paid a fine. No; she has pleaded not guilty to six counts of animal cruelty relating to the dozens of animals that died or were emaciated allegedly due to starvation and dehydration on her farm in the North West in 2014.

Specifically, Modise is accused of having failed to procure and provide adequate feed for more than 147 pigs, more than 59 sheep, more than 11 lambs, more than 54 goats and more than 25 chickens and geese at her Tlokwe farm, which resulted in their emaciation and death. You doubtless recall the pictures of dead animals sprawled across Modise’s farm and the reports of the stench of rotting carcasses that filled the air?

And so, the private prosecution, led by Gerrie Nel SC, began. But guess who was in court doing his thing for Modise? It was our Mpofu. And guess what he’s already saying – or hinting that he’s going to argue when the trial resumes in April 2021?

Mpofu revealed that the defence believed the private prosecution of Modise was a frivolous political stunt by AfriForum. “They know it, we know it, and will prove it,” Mpofu opined.

Cross-examining journalist Dustin Wetdewich who went to the scene in 2014, Mpofu asked if it was not strange the DA had tipped the Potchefstroom Herald off about the animals on the farm.

“If it was [were?] not for the involvement of the DA and the owner was not a former premier of the North West, you might have continued with the braai [then being attended by Wetdewich]?” Mpofu suggested.

You see where this is going – or will go? It’s all going to be the fault of the DA that Modise’s farm went to wrack and ruin, that her animals weren’t fed, and that they died in abject misery.

Can you picture it? Helen Zille and Tony Leon got a tip-off and then for old time’s sake hopped in a kombi and went on a road trip to North West, checked out Modise’s farm, and tipped off the local DA rep, who called the Potchefstroom Herald. No one cared about the animals, you understand, certainly not the racist white folk, they just wanted to embarrass Modise.

After the court appearance, Nel was said to have been “flabbergasted” because he had never before heard “such arguments in a criminal court”.

Don’t be flabbergasted, Gerrie. Remember the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm – Napoleon and Snowball? They understood that we must change our thinking and understanding, or we won’t make it.

This then is our (not too brave) new world, the world of Dali Mpofu and others just like him, and it’s not about cruelty to animals or state capture, maibru.

It’s about racism – and you know who the perfidious racists are.