Gordhan seeks extension on reply to Public Protector ‘rogue unit’ subpoena

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan needs more time to respond to the Public Protector about the so-called “rogue unit”. Gordhan is seeking an extension on the submission of his affidavit to Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s subpoena related to a complaint brought lodged by Floyd Shivambu, the deputy president of the Economic Freedom Fighters.

It is however not the only spot of bother Gordhan finds himself in with the Public Protector.

On March 11, Mkhwebane subpoenaed former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula over former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement, in a probe centred on Gordhan.

READ MORE: Mkhwebane subpoenas former Sars boss in probe against Gordhan

The pension payout was at the heart of the abandoned charges which were brought against Gordhan by the National Prosecuting Authority in October 2016 under then national director of public prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams.

Exactly a month later, Mkhwebane subpoenaed Gordhan to submit a replying affidavit by 1pm on April 23 in the matter dating back to his time as the revenue collection service’s commissioner. Gordhan was Sars commissioner between November 1999 and May 2009 and Magashula from 2009 to 2013.

Mkhwebane wants Gordhan and Magashula to respond to questions about whether Sars’ pursuit of the tax affairs of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, “without a legal basis”, was “based on an instruction from Mr Gordhan”, who was finance minister in 2012.

READ MORE: Gordhan subpoenaed over ‘rogue unit’

The EFF has publicly revealed it had complained to Mkhwebane about the establishment of the alleged rogue unit, but it is unclear whether these latest subpoenas are related to the EFF complaint, as the public protector is currently investigating two separate complaints against the two former Sars bosses.

According to Fin24, Adrian Lackay — Gordhan’s spokesperson — confirmed on Tuesday that the minister has asked for an extension saying: “It’s with the legal teams. There is correspondence with the Public Protector’s office on this matter and we will wait for the correspondence between that office and the legal teams,” he said.

Lackay said there was no intention on the part of Gordhan to undermine the office of the public protector. “We have issued a statement recently. No one is undermining the office of the public protector. This minister is part of the group of people that negotiated the Constitution that we have today.”

READ MORE: ‘Rogue unit’ case keeps dragging on

Speaking to Fin24 on April 12, Lackay accused Mkhwebane of an “abuse of office.” Gordhan’s spokesperson charged: “[The] same set of allegations have been investigated repeatedly by various institutions — including the office of the public protector in 2014 — and no conclusive evidence could be found of any illegality by Sars or Minister Gordhan.”

Kiri Rupiah
Kiri Rupiah is the online editor at the Mail & Guardian.

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