Public protector on Pravin Gordhan’s case again

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: RUVAN BOSHOFF
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: RUVAN BOSHOFF

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has got her sights set on public enterprises minister Pravin Gordan once again, announcing that she was subpoenaing him to answer questions about the so-called rogue unit at the SA Revenue Service (Sars).

Mkhwebane said she was issuing a section 7(9) notice to Gordhan on Monday, reiterating that she was not targeting or harassing him but just doing her job.

The public protector said the notice also related to a complaint that Gordhan had lied to parliament about meeting the controversial Gupta family. 

“I know that one will be faced with a lot of questions ... there will be allegations that I am still persecuting minister Gordhan, but I am doing my work and I understand when it comes to the issue of the rogue unit people have lost lives, people have been tainted and I think that it is still going to happen, but I am doing my work, and I will be serving that notice today,” Mkhwebane said in a video posted on her office’s Twitter account. 

“I’m ready to receive all the backlash, but I am doing the work and I am not targeting or harassing any minister, or specifically minister Gordhan.”

Gordhan’s spokesperson Adrian Lackay said the public protector’s announcement on social media before formal papers were served on the minister was “astonishing”.

The minister was waiting to receive formal notice and would take legal advice on the most appropriate response, he said. 

This comes a little more than a week after the public protector issued a report in which she found that Gordhan had acted improperly when he approved the early pension payout of former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. She had in her remedial action directed President Cyril Ramaphosa to take disciplinary action against Gordhan.

Gordhan has since lodged an application to have the report reviewed and set aside.

Mkhwebane has taken flak for the timing of the release of her report into Gordhan, which happened just before Ramaphosa’s inauguration and the appointment of his new cabinet.

The public protector has been accused of conducting a political witch-hunt against Gordhan, along with the EFF which has demanded that he be removed from the national executive. 

There have also been renewed calls for Mkhwebane to be removed from office following a court judgment that reviewed and set aside her report into the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm matter. 

The complaint relating to the Sars “rogue unit” was lodged by the EFF.

Since his appointment as public enterprises minister in February, Gordhan has been under siege facing an onslaught from the EFF and allies of former president Jacob Zuma.

Mkhwebane is investigating allegations of improper conduct; a violation of the executive ethics code; and irregular and unlawful activities by Gordhan related to the “rogue unit” when he was head of the tax agency. This is despite other investigations having found that the formation of the unit had been lawful.

The public protector said there were a number of complaints lodged against Gordhan, which her office was investigating.

“It must be clear to South Africans that I receive complaints. I don’t go around and ask people to complain. Therefore when I receive complaints I will have to approach the person complained against,” Mkhwebane said.

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