Adriaan Basson | Dali Mpofu - a legal nincompoop and scoundrel

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Tweedledee and Tweedledum: Advocate Dali Mpofu and his political hero, EFF leader Julius Malema.
Tweedledee and Tweedledum: Advocate Dali Mpofu and his political hero, EFF leader Julius Malema.

It is a shame that someone as immoral and opportunistic as Dali Mpofu represents the advocates' profession on any stage, writes Adriaan Basson.

His thuggish behaviour at the Judicial Service Commission's (JSC) interviews for Chief Justice last week confirmed Dali Mpofu SC is nothing more than a legal nincompoop and scoundrel.

When the history of the JSC and last week's shambolic hearings are written, Mpofu should be credited as the architect of a process that did nothing to strengthen the trust and image of South Africa's judiciary and legal profession and everything to sully the JSC's dented image further.

It is an indictment on the legal profession and, in particular, Advocates for Transformation (AFT), which Mpofu represents as one of the two representatives of the advocates' profession on the JSC, that a man as sly and immoral as himself could occupy such a senior position in the profession.

In previous years, the AFT was led by legal heavyweights like Ismael Semenya, Dumisa Ntsebeza and Patric Mtshaulana.

Listening to Mpofu effectively accusing Gauteng Judge President Dunstan Mlambo of sexual harassment without a shred of evidence and insinuating he had slept with Supreme Court of Appeal president Mandisa Maya, I wondered what the likes of Semenya, Ntsebeza and Mtshaulana were thinking.

READ | 'That question annoys a lot of women': Mandisa Maya says SA was always ready for a female chief justice

The denigration of Mlambo by Mpofu, cheered on by Julius Malema, the criminally accused leader of the EFF, will go down in history as one of the lowest moments of our democratic dispensation.

It is no longer a secret or surprise when Malema behaves like a thug because he is one. When he tells the JSC my colleague Karyn Maughan, News24's legal specialist and the top expert in her beat, should take her medicine and stop displaying "white tendencies", Malema confirms he is a racist and misogynist. He should be treated as such.

He is currently facing at least three criminal trials, while the Hawks have the EFF leader and his colleagues on their radar in the VBS case. Malema should not be close to the venue where the country's next Chief Justice is being interviewed.

Mpofu, on the other hand, no longer presents himself in red overalls, but with a veneer of respectability, dressed in fine suits and ties, with his designer glasses being used as a prop for dramatic effect.

But when he opens his mouth, it's all bile and bullshit, which has become the trademark of his political home, the EFF.

Mpofu and Malema did not arrive at the JSC hearings to test, as requested by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the legal and administrative prowess of the four candidates. They arrived with a clear mission: to "crown" Maya as the "winner" of the interviews at all costs by denigrating and belittling the three other candidates, particularly Mlambo and Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga, probably the least favourite of the four to be appointed by Ramaphosa, was not seriously questioned for the position. His interview was used to mount an attack on Zondo by asking about the value of commissions of inquiry and the wisdom of judges giving press briefings.

Maya had a sweetheart interview. Her most problematic answer - that she views Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe as a "big brother" and withdrew from the JSC's deliberations on his misconduct hearing because of a conflict of interest - was not properly interrogated by the commission.

As Chief Justice and chairperson of the JSC, Maya will not have the luxury to excuse herself from proceedings every time a judge she is a friend of is involved. That is the point of principled leadership: that you have to do the right thing, every time, even if your friend or 'big brother' is involved.

The fact that she is a woman was enough for Mpofu and Malema - and other commissioners who didn't bother to interrogate her legal history and philosophy.

In a disgraceful display of misogyny, Mpofu first suggested they had a sexual encounter when saying he and Maya "spent the night together" as students. It was later clarified they were study mates at university and studied through the night.

None of the rigour and aggression with which Mlambo and Zondo were targeted was on display in the Maya interview. In the most condescending of ways, they "protected" her against thorough interrogation.

The rumours about Mlambo allegedly having sexual harassment complaints against him have been doing the rounds for months. I have personally asked many judges about it, and everyone was unequivocal it was a smear campaign to prevent him from becoming Chief Justice.

So when Mpofu started questioning him about it, I had hoped he would at least come with some evidence, as is required from journalists before we publish any story. But no, Mpofu, a senior advocate, thought it was proper to raise an untested rumour for which there is absolutely no corroboration so that Mlambo could "clear the air".

There was no dirty air to clear. This was all smoke and mirrors to plant a seed of suspicion. This was defamation of the highest order.

READ | Dali Mpofu must be charged says legal body after ‘shut up’ outburst

I know many rumours about Mpofu and his sidekick, Malema, that I would love to publish, but if I did so without corroborating evidence, they would take me to the cleaners - and rightly so.

Will Mpofu be allowed to get away with this? Will the AFT or the Legal Practice Council (LPC), the JSC or Mlambo himself take steps against this scoundrel for his disgusting behaviour? How can he be allowed to continue practicing as a senior counsel?

The fact no other commissioner on the JSC immediately stood up to Mpofu's bile illustrates the intellectual low-water mark that that body has reached.

This comes in the wake of the LPC's decision to charge Mpofu with misconduct for telling advocate Michelle le Roux SC to "shut up" at the Zondo Commission.

I support those who argue that Ramaphosa should place no value on the interviews and "recommendations" of the JSC and make up his own mind about who would be the best Chief Justice for South Africa, taking advice from real jurists, not legal nincompoops and scoundrels.

- Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24

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