Tom Moyane called a press briefing on Monday morning but refused to speak at it. His attorney Eric Mabuza was light on facts and could not be cajoled into answering direct questions. Welcome to the Moyane press conference that actually wasn’t.
Suspended SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane’s lawyer Eric Mabuza, once again sketched a picture of a helpless but very efficient taxman who found himself to be the subject of an unfair “trial by media” that uses “wild and unfounded accusations” to throw “verbal insults” at a “fellow human being”.
It has been a long-standing tactic of Moyane’s to accuse journalists of being a third force out to get him, while refusing to either answer direct questions or skewing the available facts beyond all recognition.
It all went fairly well for Moyane while Mabuza read out his five-page press release on behalf of his client.
He repeated the smoke and mirrors myth of Moyane having collected the first R1-trillion in SARS’ history, and offered the opinion that without Moyane, SARS would degenerate to a point where revenue collection was at risk.
Mabuza further opined that President Cyril Ramaphosa “blinked” – a phrase meaning that Ramaphosa caved in to their demands – when he informed Mabuza that he needed some more time and the benefit of a second legal opinion before making a decision on Moyane’s demands to suspend the two processes “against him”.
(There is actually only one process “against” Moyane, which is a disciplinary hearing into his questionable conduct, chaired by Adv Azhar Bham SC. The second process in which Moyane has found himself to be a subject of discussion is the Commission of Inquiry into SARS, chaired by retired Judge Robert Nugent. Moyane has argued that the commission has been set up to investigate him personally.)
Mabuza ended off his speech by saying Moyane will maintain his “dignified silence” and that it should not be interpreted as “cowardice, timidity or a weakened resolve to fight for his rights, for justice and for fairness”.
The wheels came off thoroughly during the question and answer session.
In quintessential Moyane-style, Mabuza struggled to provide direct and fact-based answers on behalf of his client to journalists’ pointed questions.
Journalists grappled with finding the meaning and message of the press briefing.
Mabuza steered away from answering why Moyane did not challenge the accusations under oath with facts, but instead tried to claim a blanket denial to all the accusations.
(Moyane’s detractors have all made statements under oath to the Commission of Inquiry into SARS as well as in the disciplinary proceedings against Moyane.)
Moyane, through Mabuza, further labelled an audio recording submitted as evidence against him as having been “doctored” – in the recording Moyane can be heard instructing SARS employee Helgard de Waal to play sick so as not to provide evidence on the botched KPMG investigation into SARS.
(De Waal submitted his evidence under oath as well. Moyane denied its veracity, but has not challenged any of the allegations against him under oath.)
Ramaphosa’s supposed “blinking” proved to be the biggest point of confusion.
The background is that Moyane demanded from the Nugent Commission of Inquiry into SARS as well as from the disciplinary hearing chaired by Adv Bham to either dissolve itself or suspend its procedures until one or the other has been finalised.
Retired Judge Robert Nugent refused all Moyane’s demands last week on Monday. Moyane then wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa, threatening legal action if he did not adhere to Moyane’s demands.
The Presidency’s lawyers told Moyane on Friday: “The President understands that a hearing is scheduled to take place before Adv Bham SC… at which the same objection pertaining to the alleged unfairness of the parallel processes involving your client will be argued and decided. Given this, the President would like the benefit of Adv Bham’s views on the matter before making a decision on your client’s demands.”
Mabuza attempted to claim Ramaphosa’s letter as a victory, arguing that Ramaphosa somehow caved in to their demands.
The claim did not withstand journalists’ scrutiny.
In an attempt to reply to media questions Mabuza ventured into attacking journalists, rather than answering with facts and clear cut arguments. Mabuza accused some journalists of being embedded with “the other side” and unfairly targeting Moyane.
Mabuza was called to order and stopped his attacks, but seemed frayed.
The BBC’s Andrew Harding asked Mabuza whether he still thought it was “a good idea to hold the press conference”, and several journalists labelled it as “a joke”.
The only fact that journalists can inform the public of with certainty is that Adv Azhar Bham SC will hear Moyane’s arguments as to why either the disciplinary hearing or the commission of inquiry should not go forward on 21 July. Ramaphosa will make a decision on the continuation of the proceedings after Bham has ruled on the matter against Moyane. DM
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