Public protector disappointed by Pravin Gordhan's 'personal insults'
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she is disappointed at the “personal insults” by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan in court documents challenging her report into the so-called rogue unit at the SA Revenue Service (Sars).
“It is our considered opinion that the emotive language and personal insults and blatant lies or innuendos are meant to divert attention from the real issues and the findings,” Mkhwebane said in a statement on Thursday.
Her spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, added: “Mkhwebane wishes to record her disappointment at how the court application is cloaked in the indignity of personal insults. She will only be commenting on the facts of the matter as engaging in the personal insults is below the dignity of the high offices of responsibility which she and the minister occupy.”
This comes after Gordhan lodged an urgent court application on Wednesday to stop the enforcement of Mkhwebane’s remedial orders and to review her report, issued on Friday.
Mkhwebane found in the report that Gordhan had approved setting up a “rogue unit” which violated the constitution.
Gordhan’s lawyer, Tebogo Malatji, said on Wednesday they were challenging the report in the Pretoria high court.
In terms of the Public Protector Act, the public protector must justify or provide “special circumstances” to entertain complaints which happened more than two years ago.
Malatji said: “Despite repeated requests for an explanation on what ‘special circumstances’ she relied on for this investigation of matters from as far back as 2007, none has been forthcoming.”
He added in a statement that Mkhwebane misunderstood the law to arrive at a pre-determined outcome relating to the powers of intelligence services.
“There is no legal obstacle to Sars establishing an investigative unit to deal with the tax implications of organised crime and illicit trade like cigarette smuggling,” Malatji said.
“This capacity is being re-established thanks to the findings and recommendations of the Nugent commission of inquiry.”
Malatji said the report also ignored facts to reach its findings about the unit.
“Among these are the discredited Sikhakhane panel report and its erroneous legal reasoning, the Sunday Times’ apology in April 2016 for its reporting relating to the Sars unit, Judge Kroon’s apology to the members of the unit for not interrogating the issues and making wrong findings, KPMG’s withdrawal of its report and refunding of the fees earned for it.”
Mkhwebane also said in the statement on Thursday she accepted reviewing the report was “part of the prescribed process available to aggrieved parties”.
“Although the matter is reported to be brought on an urgent basis, as at noon today [Thursday], the public protector is still not formally served with court papers. She will, however, be defending the matter as she has full confidence in the veracity of her findings.” - Additional reporting by Ernest Mabuza