Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, centre, and State Security Minister David Mahlobo, right, address a press conference on the 'rogue unit' investigations at the Imbizo Media Centre in Cape Town on Wednesday. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, centre, and State Security Minister David Mahlobo, right, address a press conference on the 'rogue unit' investigations at the Imbizo Media Centre in Cape Town on Wednesday. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

POLICE Minister Nathi Nhleko was rolled out in his swish royal blue suit this week to inform the country of the Hawks investigation into the alleged "rogue unit" at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

His revelations were as clear as mud, but at least this time around he kept his perspiration in check.

The SARS debacle has been rolling on for more than two years — the target of the widespread fallout in the tax agency was always Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who previously served as SARS commissioner, and could even reach wider to his predecessor at the Treasury, Trevor Manuel.

While there is a behind-the-scenes attempt to get Gordhan and his nemesis, SARS commissioner Tom Moyane, to talk to each other, there is little movement on either side.

President Jacob Zuma likes the work Moyane is doing. He will not interfere with institutions of state, and is allowing the Hawks to continue their work. And he will mediate between Moyane and Gordhan.

This is how Zuma and his discredited acolytes went about dealing with the fallout from the 27 questions the Hawks put to Gordhan last week.

A propaganda campaign starting with a statement from the Hawks, was followed by one from Zuma and another from SARS.

This was then followed by the briefing in royal blue by Nhleko and State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

If Zuma and company wanted to convince the nation that their quest for "clarity" from Gordhan was purely in the interests of justice and that this shadowy unit had inflicted untold harm on our country and its institutions, they did a pretty awful job.

Their comments raised more questions than answers, but, more importantly, they all lack one critical ingredient that might swing public opinion in their favour: credibility.

Nhleko’s presentation on Nkandla, complete with a soundtrack and unsuspecting fireman thrust into the limelight, became the butt of jokes when the police minister’s boss conceded in open court that his report had no standing. Nhleko’s credibility is shot. It is as simple as that.

Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza’s credibility had take a knock already when a High Court judge chided him for being dishonest in the case on the suspension of Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya.

"In my view, the conduct of the third respondent (Ntlemeza) shows that he is biased and dishonest. To further show that the third respondent is dishonest and lacks integrity and honour, he made false statements under oath," said Pretoria High Court Judge Elias Matojane.

Lastly, Zuma himself has lost credibility — and the largest blow to whether he can be taken at his word was dealt by his own legal counsel in the highest court in the land last month. We have heard it too many times before from Zuma.

Very little that he says can actually be believed. Not only because after bleating about his desire for his day in court in the heady pre-Polokwane days he has to this very second been trying his damndest not to face charges, but also due to the latest testament to his aversion to the truth, Nkandla.

The Constitutional Court case on Nkandla, in which he made a startling about-turn about the binding nature of the public protector’s remedial action, dealt a single, massive blow to himself, Nhleko, the speaker of the National Assembly and every MP who populates African National Congress benches.

Zuma’s rand-crushing axing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene to replace him with MP Desmond van Rooyen and his Gupta-linked advisers, and the subsequent backtracking, is another indication of his duplicity — he still believes van Rooyen is the better man for the job.

Setting up an inside job to taint an individual’s reputation requires at the very least credibility among those leading the charge.

The truth behind the "rogue unit" at SARS continues to evade us because of the continued clash of interests. Every probe and report into it piles on more questions and garbles the narrative further. We are still dangerously far from uncovering the truth.

Sadly, none of the players who this week tried to convince the country that Zuma’s actions were above board and in the interests of justice was credible enough to be believed.

• Marrian is political editor