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22 Mar 2019 00:00
According to insiders, Mkhwebane is seen as part of the “fightback” by the camp aligned to former president Jacob Zuma, who are implicated in allegations of corruption and state capture. Photo: Oupa Nkosi
The battle between public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and some members of the Cabinet is intensifying — she has laid a criminal complaint with the police against Intelligence Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba and is investigating two complaints against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Mkhwebane laid a complaint against Letsatsi-Duba at the Brooklyn police station on Wednesday for interfering with the functioning of her office by failing to provide her with a declassified document required for her investigation into Gordhan, based on a complaint laid by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
The move appears to be a retaliation for the complaint made by Letsatsi-Duba against the public protector for illegally obtaining the classified document, according to a City Press report earlier this month.
The document at the heart of the fight is the report by the inspector general of intelligence, at the time Faith Radebe, that is alleged to support the narrative of a “rogue unit” at the South African Revenue Service, which was in part discredited during hearings at the Sars commission of inquiry into governance at the tax agency.
The public protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said that, during interactions between Letsatsi-Duba and Mkhwebane, the minister had undertaken to provide a declassified version of the report but has not done so. This had prompted the move by Mkhwebane to bring charges.
The EFF has insisted that the so-called rogue intelligence unit existed at Sars and that Gordhan should answer for it.
The inspector general of intelligence’s report was attached to the affidavit of EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu in the hate speech case brought by Gordhan against Shivambu and EFF president Julius Malema.
The other complaint against Gordhan, lodged by an individual who chose to remain anonymous, is related to the early retirement package for then deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, approved by Gordhan when he was finance minister.
Pillay and former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula are scheduled to appear before Mkhwebane on the matter on March 25 after she subpoenaed them this month.
On Wednesday, Mkhwebane said the intelligence minister’s actions amount to interference with the functioning of her office.
“It is my respectful view that the minister’s failure to avail the declassified report as subpoenaed amounts to contempt of the public protector and interference with the functioning of my office, and is therefore an offence,” Mkhwebane said. “The Constitution makes it clear that no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of independent constitutional institutions such as my office. The Constitutional Court has clarified this further, explaining that, in doing my work, I am not to be inhibited, undermined or sabotaged and that my powers are ‘not supposed to bow down to anybody’.”
Mkhwebane has also clashed with the treasury and the South African Reserve Bank. Her report ordering that the mandate of the central bank be altered was overturned on review in a scathing court judgment.
According to insiders, Mkhwebane is seen as part of the “fightback” by the camp aligned to former president Jacob Zuma, who are implicated in allegations of corruption and state capture.
Natasha Marrian is Mail & Guardian's politics editor. Read more from Natasha Marrian
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