Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has directed the Speaker of Parliament to refer the conduct of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to the ethics committee within 14 days after she found that he misled Parliament over a meeting with the controversial Gupta family.
Mkhwebane, releasing her report into Gordhan’s conduct based on an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) complaint, said she found it “implausible” that Gordhan could have forgotten meeting an associate of the Gupta family when “one considers the prominence of the subject of state capture in SA”.
She found that the allegation that Gordhan violated the Executive Code of Ethics by deliberately misleading Parliament through failing to disclose that he met a member of the Gupta family was “substantiated”.
“Mr Gordhan conceded to not having disclosed that he had actually met a member of the Gupta family and an associate of the family in 2010,” she said.
Mkhwebane said Gordhan had indicated that at the time of his response to the parliamentary question — in 2016 — he had forgotten about a meeting at which Ajay Gupta was present. She said that he had told the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture in an affidavit that it was only after he was reminded by his then-chief of staff Dondo Mogajane that he recalled the meeting.
She found this “implausible”.
The Sunday Tribune had in November last year reported on a 2016 reply to a Parliamentary question to the Democratic Alliance’s Michael Bagraim in which Gordhan had admitted to meeting the family.
According to the reply, published on the newspaper’s website, Gordhan wrote: “I have not attended any meeting with the Gupta family or anyone else at their Saxonwold estate. I have encountered one or more members of his family at public events on a few occasions, for example a cricket match.
“I have met one of the Gupta brothers at Mahlamba Ndlopfu around 2009/10, during which a brief discussion on small business finance took place,” said Gordhan in the reply.
The report indicated that the EFF asked Mkhwebane to investigate Gordhan for meeting Ajay Gupta and an Indian billionaire, “Mr Ambani”, to discuss the possible acquisition of MTN.