EFF national chairperson and renowned advocate Dali Mpofu says the defence of suspended South African Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane was "brought to him".
"I don't take up cases; they are brought to me," Mpofu told HuffPost, when asked why he was handling Moyane's defence.
Mpofu would not comment on the public debate about whether it is ethical for him to defend Moyane.
"I am not allowed professionally to comment," he said.
The EFF called for Moyane's head, & now the EFF's Adv Dali Mpofu is representing him at his disciplinary hearing! Seems there's no morals & ethics in money. Mpofu is doing his job as an advocate, but surely given the circumstances he should have declined the brief!— François (@Pyrethrum58) May 5, 2018
Are Dali Mpofu's multiple capacities a genuine ethical dilemma or are critics merely reflecting their own intellectual frailties? An objective response will always be more difficult than a subjective one. I hope for the former. #moyane— Khulani Qoma (@KhulaniQoma) May 5, 2018
Social media users argued furiously about the issue after it emerged last week that Mpofu would defend Moyane on the disciplinary charges brought against him. The controversy relates to Mpofu's political affiliation to the EFF, where he serves as its national chairperson.
The party has been at the forefront of calls for Moyane's resignation.
In a statement by the party on March 15, it said: "[Moyane] will not do anything to assist Sars and should find it within his heart to step down with immediate effect. [Moyane continuing to] stay at the helm of Sars will hamper revenue collection, as already illustrated in the shortfall of R48.2-billion as announced by [finance minister Nhlanhle Nene]."
In another statement five days later, the party welcomed Moyane's suspension.
In the bigger scheme, court cases are about uncoverig the truth. If, with the help of Dali Mpofu, Moyane wins because he is being unfairly targetted, why should we worry?— Joseph Moyo (@Joe990gpMoyo) May 6, 2018
TimesLive reported that the inquiry will investigate whether Moyane contravened the South African Revenue Service Act‚ the Public Finance Management Act and the Sars code of conduct.
Legally, Mpofu is not out of order. The rules of professional ethics prescribed for legal practitioners also do not make reference to conflicts of interest stemming from one's political affiliation.
Law expert James Grant said Mpofu is abiding by legal ethical standards.
"When someone approaches you to defend them, you must take up the case... You are allowed to say no in extremely limited circumstances. For example, if you don't have capacity to do so, if the case law is something you know nothing about, or if there is a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest arises if the advocate is privy to information that would jeopardise the case of your opponent," Grant said.
"So if Mpofu was not ever privy to special information that would help him win the defence, then there is nothing wrong ethically. This is perhaps a debate of morality rather than ethics."