After hours of hostile questioning, the cross examination of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan by counsel for fired South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane on Monday turned to the theme of the so-called rogue unit within the revenue service.
Advocate Dali Mpofu, for Moyane, suggested that the firm rejection by Judge Robert Nugent of any illegality in the establishment of the intelligence unit was firstly doubtful, and secondly a shaky basis for Gordhan’s claim that Moyane was effectively an agent of state capture.
The cross examination came almost exactly a year after Deputy Judge President Raymond Zondo had overturned his earlier refusal of Moyane’s application to grill Gordhan on claims that he had been an agent of state capture.
Mpofu seemed bent on riling a defensive Gordhan, putting it to him repeatedly that he was racist, arrogant and accusing the former SARS commissioner to dissimulate his own wrongdoing, and that of the faction in the ruling African National Congress to which he was aligned.
He said there were five grounds for the hostilities between the minister and the commissioner, on Gordhan’s implication of Moyane in the serious charge of state capture.
“It was caused by your general arrogance towards him and petty jealousies about his role at SARS. Thirdly, he says it also originated from your racism towards him and towards African people in general and, fourthly, he says it was motivated, and here we come closer to the meat, by your need to deflect from your own involvement if corruption and state capture.”
Lastly, he added, Moyane had effectively exposed “the mess” Gordhan had left behind at the revenue service where he had served as commissioner before being promoted to the Cabinet post of finance minister.
Mpofu charged that the Nugent commission, which described Moyane’s arrival at SARS at a calamity, was wrong on every score and that current SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter’s very recent repudiation of the conflicting Sikhakhane report was wrong-headed.
But in the main, the day’s events were characterised by hostile sparring between Mpofu and the minister as the advocate seemed intent on provoking an outburst from Gordhan.
He called him racist and rebuked him for treating Moyane as a “pygmee” in a bitter telephone exchange, submitted in transcription to the commission as evidence.
“Grow up Mr Gordhan, don’t be cheeky. How does that make you feel?” he snapped at Gordhan, using a line the minister had lobbed at Moyane.
“You must never again belittle African people in the way you did in this conversation. You must just not do it again, ok?” came Mpofu’s reply, after saying that the minister suffered from a “God complex” in his perception he deserved to be treated as a member of Cabinet.
Central to the day’s exchange was the question of whether Gordhan had any firm proof that Moyane was motivated by the wish to advance the capture of the state coffers when, in 2015, he laid a complaint with the Brooklyn police over the early retirement deal concluded with assistant commissioner Ivan Pillay.
Gordhan conceded that he had mistakenly believed at the time of his testimony to the Zondo commission two years ago that Moyane had directly implicated him.
Despite now knowing that this was not the case, he said he still believed that the charge was an abuse of the legal system and had laid the basis for fraud charges briefly brought against him by the National Prosecuting Authority in 2016.
The charges were withdrawn within three weeks but caused political upheaval and market instability.
During the questioning, Zondo appeared at pains to stop the acrimony between Gordhan and Mpofu escalating. He gently pressed Gordhan to answer directly, as Mpofu condescendingly told the minister that he was a mere witness and obliged to comply with the process.
At close to 8pm, Zondo adjourned the proceedings and said he would schedule a time for cross examination to resume, likely during an evening sitting.