Mkhwebane to oppose court action by Gordhan

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane will oppose Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan’s court bid to set aside her recent report on the so-called “rogue unit” at the South African Revenue Service (Sars), she said on Thursday.

In a statement, Mkhwebane said she was particularly disappointed by “the indignity of personal insults contained in the court application” by the Public Enterprises Minister.”

Gordhan launched the court case on Wednesday, asking the high court to set aside her report and to urgently suspend the remedial action Mkhwebane has directed in the meantime.

READ MORE: Gordhan launches court bid to set aside Public Protector’s “rogue unit” report

In a fiery affidavit, Gordhan said that Mkhwebane’s office and powers had become “weaponised” in the political battle over state capture. Later, he also refers to her “stunning incompetence”.

Mkhwebane’s report made a number of findings against Gordhan and former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. These included that Gordhan deliberately misled Parliament when he did not disclose in answer to a Parliamentary question that one of the Guptas had been at a meeting he attended in 2010.

READ MORE: READ IN FULL: Court papers, affidavits in Gordhan, Public Protector battle

The report also found that the investigating unit at Sars widely referred to as the “Sars rogue unit” was unlawfully formed and had conducted unauthorised operations.

Gordhan wants the high court to set aside the report on a number of grounds and has asked it to order that Mkhwebane acted in breach of her constitutional duties and was dishonest or reckless in how she got to her findings.

Thursday’s statement from the office of the public protector said Mkhwebane accepted that a review application was “part of the prescribed process available to aggrieved parties to challenge reports” from her office.

“However, Adv. Mkhwebane wishes to record her disappointment at how the court application is cloaked in the indignity of personal insults.” She would 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,” said the statement.

“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.”

Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian

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