Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Monday told the Zondo commission he had no knowledge of former South African Revenue Service (SARS) commissioner Tom Moyane’s motives for prompting criminal charges against him in 2015, but he has a personal reason to feel it was part of an attempt to capture the treasury.
Gordhan also conceded that he had wrongly believed, and testified, that Moyane had personally laid a complaint with the Brooklyn police that led to him being criminally charged in October 2016.
“It was a lack of information that was available at that particular time … the true nature of the complaint only became apparent once documentation was available through the commission,” he said.
Gordhan said he must make plain that he has “no knowledge of Mr Moyane’s state of mind” at the time. Gordhan reiterated that he believed Moyane was trying to dislodge him as the Zuma administration’s finance minister to facilitate the capture of the state’s coffers.
“I personally believe that Mr Moyane did abuse legal processes for reasons already explained in my evidence. I say this based on my experience of his defiant attitude, and vilification of me following my reappointment as minister of finance, which I believed was aimed at forcing or pressuring me to resign from that position so that the capture of national treasury could proceed under a different minister.
“I, therefore, do mean that Mr Moyane was motivated, wholly or in part, or he sought to advance the objectives of state capture.”
It was the opening salvo in a day on which, as Moyane seeks to salvage his reputation and Gordhan defends his own from attack, two opposing versions of recent political history are playing out before the commission.
Gordhan said ordinary South Africans felt the fallout of Moyane’s actions as head of the revenue service to this day in the “serious consequences in balancing the national books” in terms of revenue, expenditure and calamitous levels of public borrowing.
But he was interrupted by Judge Raymond Zondo and evidence leader Matthew Chaskalson. They both reminded the minister that at issue was not whether Moyane was “good or bad for SARS”, but whether he meant to further the rent-seeking state capture project.
Zondo stressed before Mpofu began his questioning that, with the issue of the provenance of the criminal charges falling away, the commission would confine itself to Gordhan’s evidence on his views implicating the former SARS commissioner in state capture.
The cross-examination sitting began a year ago, almost to the day, after Zondo agreed to let Moyane question Gordhan on the minister’s testimony before the commission in 2018.
The deputy chief justice initially denied Moyane leave to do so, but in late November reluctantly overturned his earlier ruling after Mpofu argued that the minister had accused his client not only of malice, but also of seeking to advance state capture.
“If Mr Gordhan had stopped on talk about malice and said nothing about state capture, maybe it would have been easy to dismiss the application,” Zondo said at the time.
Gordhan had testified that he believed that Moyane had initiated criminal charges against him, relating to the early retirement arrangement of deputy SARS commissioner Ivan Pillay, that he said hung over him for three tumultuous weeks before the National Prosecuting Authority withdrew the case.
The minister on Monday explained that duplication of case numbers led him to believe the charges were Moyane’s direct doing. In contrast, he now held that it all was prompted by a misguided administrative complaint on the Pillay matter.
“The point is, you were not really saying that [he laid] the charges against you per se, but [that] it was his complaint which led to the criminal charges. There may have been other things but it triggered the process that led to the criminal charges, correct?” Mpofu asked Gordhan. “So when he laid that complaint against those people at the Brooklyn police station, it was part of performing his official duties.”
Gordhan had vehemently opposed the application for cross-examination, saying Moyane was not seeking the chance for a factual rebuttal of his testimony, but another opportunity to tarnish his reputation.
“His disagreement with my personal impressions and experience does not assist the commission,” he said in an affidavit.
“Nor is there any purpose served by it other than to afford a disgruntled Mr Moyane a public platform to attempt to denigrate me and my record of public service through cross-examination by his legal representatives, utilising outlandish conspiracy theories, a racist and populist political script, all in pursuit of a personal vendetta against me.”
Gordhan’s opening remarks in part sought to challenge Moyane’s right to cross-examination, and he repeated that the former commissioner should rather testify on the events that marked his time at SARS.
“It is Mr Moyane who is implicated in state capture, and he should give his version of various events to the commission,” Gordhan said.Time has not been kind to Moyane’s version of what transpired during his tenure at SARS. His showdown with Gordhan comes a fortnight after SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter binned the Sikhakhane report, effectively burying the narrative of a “rogue unit” within the tax service used to legitimise his purge of senior staff.