Tom Moyane, the suspended commissioner of the South African Revenue Service.
Every South African should be embarrassed by the level of incompetence, brazen plunder and apparent lack of shame being revealed through the concurrently unfolding judicial commission of inquiry into the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and the disciplinary hearing of its suspended head, Tom Moyane.

As expected, the ensuing public discourse has often turned toxic, lacks nuance and, sometimes, borders on the absurd.

Let me explain. A well-functioning state, free of rampant malfeasance and political machinations, is essential to salvaging our economy from Armageddon, and assuring economic growth.

Thanks largely to a vigilant and robust media, we have become aware of the perilous state our revenue service is in since Moyane was parachuted to the helm of Sars.

In the past decade or so, we have succeeded in recognising the harm of corruption in our society, and the fact that moral outrage doesn’t seem to work with most transgressors.

Tom Moyane ranks among the most reviled public functionaries in contemporary South African history. And for good reasons. It is thus unsurprising that public hostility towards Moyane has irrevocably calcified.

However, the real danger to our democracy doesn’t only stem from what we already know about Moyane’s excesses, but from that which is likely to remain unknown in spite of the inquisitions he faces.

Moyane has, reportedly, demurred from resigning from his position after he was asked to do so by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Instead, he has mounted a spirited legal and PR strategy whose absurdity beggars belief.

The unfolding inquiry, including the disciplinary hearing, seems much scarier than walking into a dark, winding Thai cavern.

Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we had thought. And after each step, as we wonder how far the cave goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken.

The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume. And since trying to discern the extent of the revelations is an exercise in uncertainty and “rage-control”, we tend to focus our attention on the most desired outcome - that Moyane be history. This is understandably driven by our primal desire for retribution.

But that could signal the start of the erosion of the tenets of our constitutional democracy. Is that the price we should pay as we seek to satiate our desire for justice, and vengeance? Moyane’s spirited defence seems to elicit the most exotic and sinister theories aimed at embarrassing advocate Dali Mpofu, whose political party is linked to some underworld characters allegedly involved in “illicit cigarette trade.”

Nevertheless, however justifiable public contempt for Moyane may be, we should be careful to not deny Moyane his constitutional right to due process and fairness.

Moyane’s quagmire seems to present an easy temptation for haste and public lynching. But we can still responsibly express disgust at his alleged transgressions, and speculate as to what lies at the end, without falling prey to our own fallacies and contradictions.

Apropos, it was disquieting when celebrated author and journalist Jacques Pauw tweeted thus: “Why is (advocate) Dali Mpofu committing hara-kiri in defending Tom Moyane?”

Although public distaste of Moyane is understandable, it is disturbing that Pauw believes that Moyane is undeserving of legal representation. Others seem to revel in spewing invectives at anyone remotely linked to Moyane. This is as duplicitous as it is regrettable.

Saying or suggesting that we shouldn’t care about Moyane’s right to legal representation, for whatever reason, is not different to saying that we shouldn’t care about journalists’ freedom of speech because we don’t have anything to publish.

This fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of our civil liberties militates against the very essence undergirding our freedoms.

What is missing from our imagination is the unlikely but conceivable outcome on the other end: that Moyane could be exonerated. After all, treating a small probability as if it were non-existent is the very error much of the media and legal pundits made in respect of advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi.

And while the publicly available information about the Sars imbroglio is extensive, the way it has been delivered - scoop after scoop of discreet nuggets of information - has been disorienting and looks suspiciously choreographed.

Increasingly, “whataboutism” and political subterfuge seem to be the preferred defence strategy by those trying to deflect attention and avoid accountability. Such stratagem may yield some media attention, but it hardly ever sways judicial processes in the end.

Duduzane Zuma and his apologists seem to have adopted a similar strategy as he battles his legal woes. Evidently mimicking his moral exemplar and former president dad, Zuma has also attracted political opportunists.

These quasi-revolutionaries, under the spell of the lunatic Black First Land First (BLF), act like mutating genes that show up in covert and overt tactics intended to subvert democratic processes and the pursuit of justice, most acutely within the black community.

BLF claims to be a vanguard for the downtrodden and opposed to a chimerical “white monopoly capital”. Zuma is accused of stealing from the poor in cahoots with the Guptas. He also faces twin charges of culpable homicide. More charges could follow. The irony of Zuma being represented by white lawyers to defend him seems completely lost to him and his apologists, BLF.

A double dose of irony is that BLF castigates AfriForum, a white supremacist organisation, for reaching out to the poor families of the casualties of Duduzane’s apparent bad driving.

BLF’s misplaced hysteria and revolutionary voyeurism would be incomplete without customary invectives directed at the Oppenheimers and Ruperts.

Whatever political or personal dislikes individuals may harbour against Moyane’s lawyers and their methods, we should refrain from vilifying anyone for representing those we despise - as Pauw did.

Moyane, like Zuma, is shameless.

In the end analysis, Moyane is the architect of his own drama, and deserves his own karma.

* Khaas is chairperson of Corporate SA, a strategic advisory and consultancy firm. Follow him via Twitter @tebogokhaas

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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Sunday Independent Dispatch