High jinks at Zondo Commission as SOEs testify
Johannesburg – The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture this week heard evidence from various state owned entities, with moments of high drama and shocking revelations.
The commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, had to interrupt proceedings to address the events that took place on Tuesday evening where advocate Dali Mpofu, who was representing former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, told a colleague, advocate Michelle Le Roux who was representing Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to “shut up”.
The comment prompted a member of the public to lodge a formal complaint with the General Council of the Bar (GCB), which on Friday confirmed that a formal investigation over the comment by Mpofu was under way.
“The Johannesburg Bar Council, which is a constituent bar of the GCB, has received a complaint against Mr Mpofu and will investigate that complaint.
“The GCB does not usually investigate complaints.
“I cannot speculate on what the outcome or sanction would be,” said GCB chairperson Craig Watt-Pringle.
However, EFF treasurer-general Omphile Maotwe said the party was proud of Mpofu.
“We are very clear, when a racist raises his/her ugly head we are going to tell them to shut up!
“We are proud of Mpofu as the EFF, he remains our loyal member,” said Maotwe.
Zondo described Mpofu’s attitude toward Gordhan and Le Roux as unacceptable and disrespectful.
“There has been an overwhelming majority of people who have appeared before the commission, who had shown respect to the commission and also shown respect to others who had a role to play before this commission.
“ No one has a right to tell anyone to shut up,” said Zondo.
Tuesday, saw a long awaited showdown between Moyane and Gordhan.
Mpofu began the proceedings by quizzing Gordhan about advocate Muzi Skhakhane's 2014 report on the so-called rogue unit that had been unlawfully established at SARS.
He also delved at the remarks Gordhan had made in his court affidavit against Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Mkhwebane had contested in court that Gordhan labelled her as a corrupt, illiterate, rogue, incompetent, irrational, and unreasonable and unfit to occupy the position of the public protector to which Mkhwebane said Gordhan's remarks "did not belong in court papers by a “self-respecting member of the national executive”.
"Remember we had our discussion around racism and belittling people in December," Mpofu said, adding that judges found that his remarks (Gordhan's remarks on Mkhwebane) were condescending against an African woman namely Mkhwebane.
A visibly irritated Mpofu emphasised to Gordhan that a full bench had ordered that he was condescending towards Mkhwebane to which Gordhan replied: "Not necessarily."
Gordhan took exception to Mpofu's line of questioning.
The commission also heard how a global consulting firm that had a contract with Sars allegedly failed to account for its state of affairs before the Nugent commission that was chaired by retired Justice Robert Nugent.
In his testimony, Athol Williams, a former partner at the Boston-based firm known as Bain and Company told the commission that the company was not truthful to South Africa when it was under the spotlight of the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance.
The commission also heard from Sars employee Vlok Symington who said Moyane withheld critical information that could have confirmed to crime investigators, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that there was no case against former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
Gordhan had approved of his deputy Ivan Pillay’s early retirement.
On October 30, 2016, former NPA boss Shawn Abrahams dropped the case against Gordhan.
It is alleged that Moyane desired to make the charges stick.
Symington told the commission how the Hawks held him hostage in a boardroom at a Sars office.
The incident was captured on a cellphone.
The matter was later settled out of court.
He added that a printed email was snatched from him.
“They said they would let me go if I handed the NPA letter to them,” said Symington.
Symington said that he had advised Gordhan in a memorandum that it was lawful for Pillay to take early retirement and return to the revenue service.
Symington said the memorandum was not considered when Moyane decided to lay charges against Gordhan and others.
The commission also heard evidence from former Denel board chairperson Daniel Mantsha who confirmed that there was nothing wrong for him taking so-called ‘free’ trips to Dubai and India allegedly funded by the Guptas.
When asked if he would have paid for the trip, how much would it have been, he said he did not know.
The commission also heard from former Sars employee Johann Van Loggerenberg revealed information regarding Project Honey Badger, which was launched in 2013 to fight the illicit tobacco trade.
“The cigarettes industry in particular has always been a problem and the government has been losing a lot of money and legitimate business has suffered,” said Loggerenberg.
He said in 2011/12 fiscal year Sars collected R10.8 billion in excise duty which is the specific tax levied on cigarettes from the sector.
“In the following year including Honey Badger it went up to R11.5bn for the fiscal year 2013/14.
“In the fiscal year 2014/15 it went up to R13.1bn,” he said.