DAYS OF ZONDO

Fact-checking Dali Mpofu: Michelle le Roux is a recommended silk and SARS has set aside dodgy ‘rogue unit’ report

By Ferial Haffajee 24 March 2021

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is cross-examined at the Zondo Commission on November 30 2020. (Photo: Gallo Images/Papi Morake)

Critics can go jump in the lake, fumes Mpofu as he faces heat for telling his bar colleague – and Pravin Gordhan – to “shut up”.

In late-night heat at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, Dali Mpofu burst under pressure. “Ms Le Roux must shut up while I am on the floor,” he said after his interjection was interrupted by Advocate Michelle le Roux, who was finalising the cross-examination of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, whom she represents.

Gordhan, appearing by video before the commission, was visibly and audibly shocked. “You must also shut up,” Mpofu shouted at the minister. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo climbed in to calm things down. “I am in charge here. Sit down,” he said to Mpofu.

It took a few more minutes for Le Roux to conclude. A tired Zondo made short shrift of her attempt to get Gordhan to defend multiple allegations made by Mpofu that he had allegedly been racist in his dealing with former SA Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane, whom Mpofu represents. Zondo said Gordhan had had ample opportunity in his three appearances before the commission to place on record his anti-racist history in the struggle against apartheid.

Mpofu told Zondo: “I want to say that it cannot be that Mr Moyane and his legal representatives are treated this way. I cannot be interrupted by a junior counsel (meaning Le Roux).” She is, in fact, recommended as a silk like Mpofu and is also a member of the New York Bar. Le Roux has a master’s degree and is a multi-award-winning advocate. She has co-authored two lauded legal texts, the most recent titled Lawfare, which she experienced at the commission on 23 March.    

Former South African Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane at the Zondo Commission on November 30 2020. (Photo: Gallo Images/Papi Morake)

Facing social media criticism for his action, Mpofu tweeted: “THEY CAN GO JUMP IN THE NEAREST LAKE.”

Gordhan concluded his third round of testimony before the commission, where he has been a marquee witness. Mpofu cross-examined him on behalf of Moyane and sought to present the breakdown of the relationship between the two as the result of the minister’s condescension and alleged racism. 

Mpofu said that in high court judgments in the case between Gordhan and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the judges had also criticised the minister for his attitude.

“Both judgments found against the Public Protector. There were criticisms of one or two paragraphs in my affidavit,” said Gordhan, who added that while Mpofu had read a racial attack into his affidavit, there was no evidence of that in the judge’s words which he read into the commission’s record. 

Mpofu said: “These judgments confirm that it is your style to condescend and insult people.” 

Gordhan replied: “I deny that completely and emphatically.” 

Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images) / Former SARS commissioner Tom Moyane. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

Mpofu said Gordhan should have reported his concerns about the capture of SARS to the police.

Mpofu also spent time showing that the so-called Sikhakhane Report, which confirmed that a “rogue unit” existed at the revenue service while Gordhan was in charge, had never been set aside or discredited, as Gordhan had testified. 

“[The] Sikhakhane Report was discredited; the KPMG report has been mutilated, and Judge Kroon has apologised,” Gordhan told the judge about three reports commissioned to investigate the unit. 

Mpofu denied that any legal forum had set aside the Sikhakhane Report, although SARS has rescinded it as an official document. 

SARS is one of the institutions on which the Zondo Commission has focused while investigating State Capture. The probe into the High Risk Investigations Unit and Moyane’s tenure has been a key theme of its work. DM

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All Comments 26

  • Mpofu seems to get away with derogatory remarks regularly. Why is this? He should be brought before the bar and told to ‘jump into the nearest lake’ so that integrity can be restored to the profession he so easily drags through the mud.

    • His antics are childish – forever throwing toys out the cot. It’s actually laughable. I guess the client gets the representation he deserves…

    • Agreed ! I was surprised Zondo (consistent with his character) did not consider rebuking him for his attempted bias accusatory final remarks directed at Zondo. Not unlike the attitude of JZ’s representative at the commission ! Seems like the last defence of the indefensible – showboating.

  • The outbursts are not the real issue.
    What is striking is how trivial Mpofu’s cross-examination is. The attack is that Gordhan is condescending and/or jealous (?!) or racist. No more than gossip. Even if the commission finds all that is true, how does all that advance Moyane’s case on the facts?

    • Exactly. Not a single substantive issue was raised; only attempts to discredit Gordhan by getting him to agree that he had been condescending and racist by, for instance, telling Moyane that he was cheeky and that he must grow up.
      That is the kind of talk, regrettably, that sometimes happens in the heat of the moment between a boss and his/her subordinate. It’s not nice, but it has nothing to do with acting unlawfully, as Mpofu was so ineffectually trying to assert.

  • Grandstanding does not constitute advocacy. It may win an adoring audience on twitter but it doesn’t alter outcomes in the actual case.

  • What a bunch of cretins Mpofu only has the race card in his arsenal to defend Moyane, who destroyed SARS, pathetic. Who’s paying his bill? Zuma?

  • Mpofu strikes me as an intelligent person. He needs to start representing those who have been treated unfairly, instead of those who cannot find decent legal council.

  • What an odious and vile character this Mpofu is! Hardly surprising as he identifies with and defends all the equally odious scumbags and thieves who brought this country to its knees. An utter disgrace to his profession – nothing but a heartless mercenary with no morals, ethics or integrity.

  • When you cannot make headway or when you have no sensible argument, play the race card, it’s the easiest card to play. I would like to think that more and more intelligent people are beginning to see beyond that tactic, it’s so old news by now. – Mind you, I suppose it depends on who uses it ?

  • And this is another example of the systemic gender based violence in this country, some people are raised in an environment where the patriarch is king and can do no wrong !

  • Hmm, methinks the writer of this article’s headline needs to investigate the difference between “council” and “counsel.” The article’s body and even its URL get it right, but no points for guessing where the biggest eyesore lives.

    • I ended up with council instead of counsel in my comment, not sure if it was predictive text or finger trouble. Fortunately we know which word is intended.

  • The fact that Mpofu did not know, or refused to acknowledge that Le Roux is not only a senior advocate but, it would seem, meaningfully more advanced and familiar with the law than he, really says it all.

  • Mpofu’s last comment about PG’s counsel being ‘junior’ displayed his condescending and insulting attitude,which he tried to project onto Gordhan,while simultaneously being misogynistic.His desperate attempts to insert racism (not contained in the judgements) were quickly exposed as false.Despicable!

  • Sadly, Dali Mpofu behaves like the rest of his EFF party, believing he can insult and bludgeon opponents into his way of thinking – as so many have said, Tom Moyane got the representation he deserved. Lucky for Dali, “Racism” only applies one way.

  • “ Mpofu said: “These judgments confirm that it is your style to condescend and insult people.” ” And then he tells Gordhan and Le Roux to shut up? Ah, the hypocrisy.

  • The old attorney said to the young one, when the facts are on your side you hammer on the facts if not you hammer on the table. Mpofu hammers a lot, but it is not on the facts.

    There is though a far deeper problem with our legal system. It is called Senior counsels and their arrogance.

  • Gordhan could have reminded the imposter SC that a horse is an animal with four legs but a four legged animal is not necessarily a horse. So being condescending to a black female public protector is not necessarily being condescending to black women per se.

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