Opinion | Everyone is afraid of the EFF’s Dali-ng


Opinion | Everyone is afraid of the EFF’s Dali-ng

Advocate Dali Mpofu's theatrical populism and political rhetoric-as-legal argument seriously undermine the legal system and its processes, writes MAX DU PREEZ.


SOUTH AFRICA was treated to scenes on television yesterday and the day before of a judge repeatedly having to sternly reprimand a senior advocate.

Right behind the advocate sat his lively and smiling client, who was released on medical parole from prison months ago, supposedly on his deathbed.

It's the Dali and Zuma Show, a soap opera depicting the gnawing undermining of our courts.

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A day before that, we had to witness a former advocate who had been struck off the roll earlier for misconduct, Malesela Teffo, pushing himself in full robes into the trial of the alleged murderers of soccer star Senzo Meyiwa. He took his seat only when the judge threatened to physically throw him out. Such a thing was unheard of in our courts until recently.

Also this week, we were informed that the parliamentary inquiry into the fitness of the suspended public protector had to be postponed once again because her legal team, led by Mpofu, had withdrawn, and she had not yet appointed new representatives.

The common thread running through most of the many unsavoury episodes before our courts and legal investigations is Dali Mpofu SC.

Dali the Untouchable. Like Donald Trump, who says he can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and nothing will happen to him, Mpofu can boast that he can do whatever he wants in a court or an investigative commission without anyone taking action against him.

The man was described by the editor of News24 as “a legal nincompoop and scoundrel." 

He was the national chairperson of the EFF until 2019, and in recent years Mpofu has increasingly showcased his EFF theatrics and cheap political populism in his public appearances as a lawyer. Mpofu-like contempt for decorum and legal rules is becoming more prevalent.

His astonishing lack of success for his clients clearly doesn't dent his self-assurance.

Mpofu's entry into public life, and probably a significant part of his success as a celebrity, has once again been highlighted in Jonny Steinberg's book Winnie & Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage. He was Winnie's lover while Mandela was in prison, and he was by her side while she and her football club wreaked havoc in late-1980s Soweto — an episode that claimed several young lives. Mpofu was born the year after Mandela went to prison. According to Steinberg, this affair was extremely painful for Mandela.

After a letter from Winnie to Mpofu was published in 1992, accusing him of promiscuity and telling him about the money she had given him from the ANC's welfare department, Mandela divorced her. (The letter is reproduced on page 450 of Steinberg's book.)

Mpofu was also once the CEO of the SABC, with catastrophic consequences. He was paid R14-million to leave in 2009.

He later became the chief strategist of Jacob Zuma's notorious Stalingrad campaign to avoid a corruption trial.

In 2018, he said he would sue constitutional specialist Prof Pierre de Vos for defamation and called him a racist after De Vos questioned the validity of his legal arguments before the Nugent Commission on the revenue service. Mpofu represented one of the leading state capturers, Tom Moyane.

Mpofu allowed Zuma to leave the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture without the chair's permission, but not before he shouted at a colleague to “shut up". The deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo reprimanded him sharply but the Legal Practice Council apologised on his behalf.

Mpofu was widely criticised by legal practitioners after confronting Judge Dunstan Mlambo with wild gossip about sexual harassment and suggesting he had slept with Judge Mandisa Maya, while serving as a member of the Judicial Service Commission responsible for recommending judicial appointments.

It was after this incident that Adriaan Basson of News24 wrote: “Mpofu 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 is all bile and bullshit, which has become the trademark of his political home, the EFF."

Mpofu is also Zuma's attorney in the absurd attempt to privately prosecute state prosecutor Billy Downer and journalist Karyn Maughan for allegedly disclosing private medical information about Zuma. He  took this absurdity to even greater heights when Zuma attempted to privately prosecute President Cyril Ramaphosa for not disciplining Downer.

That was the case being heard over the last few days in the Johannesburg High Court, where Ramaphosa is applying for the private prosecution not to be allowed because it is “frivolous and vexatious".

Mpofu made wild statements and insults in his usual style, to the extent that Judge Lebogang Modiba had to address him three times and instructed him to “tone down your language."

She told him: “No, Mr Mpofu, I treat you with utter respect. I'm engaging you on the issues. I've got no predisposition. I'm a judge appointed in terms of the constitution exercising my functions without fear, favour or prejudice. And I'm engaging you with respect, and I expect the same from you."

Mpofu earned more than R12-million in the protracted parliamentary inquiry into Busisiwe Mkhwebane. I follow this inquiry, and I think it is fair to say he is the main reason it has not been completed.

With all his millions, this tweet may be the pinnacle of irony:

During the Mkhwebane inquiry, in my opinion, Mpofu crossed the boundaries of acceptable behaviour for a legal practitioner hundreds of times. He intimidated and insulted witnesses, made political statements and frequently clashed with the committee chairperson. If he doesn't have a legal argument, he resorts to innuendo and victimhood.

In March, De Vos wrote on his website, Constitutionally Speaking: “Mpofu’s often spurious objections, lengthy monologues, politically motivated digressions and ad hominem attacks on witnesses and political opponents sometimes seem to have only a tenuous connection to the applicable (accurate) legal principles and the relevant verifiable facts."

The code of conduct for legal practitioners is a clear guideline for what is acceptable and what is not. Go read it for yourself and judge Mpofu's behaviour accordingly.

Why are judges, other advocates and the Legal Practice Council so afraid to call Mpofu to order once and for all?

The answer probably lies in his mixture of braggadocio and bravado, his labelling of anyone who criticises him, and his manipulation of the media on one hand; and the protection he receives from the militant EFF on the other.

♦ VWB ♦

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