President Cyril Ramaphosa has come out in support of Pravin Gordhan in the public enterprises minister’s court battle with the Public Protector over the so-called “rogue unit” at the South African Revenue Service (Sars).
In court papers filed on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said he was supporting Gordhan’s application to interdict Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s remedial action, including the direction that Ramaphosa take disciplinary action against Gordhan within 30 days of her report.
In her report Mkhwebane made a number of findings, including that an investigating unit of Sars established in 2007 — widely known as the “rogue unit” — was unlawfully formed and had conducted illegal intelligence gathering operations.
Gordhan wants the report set aside by court and in the interim, has asked the court to urgently interdict her remedial action.
Gordhan and Mkhwebane are also embroiled in another separate court battle over an earlier report, concerning the early pension payout to former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay.
There is also the connected, but separate, court application by Ramaphosa about the remedial action directed in the pension payout report, with the president asking the court to declare that he has complied with her remedial action.
These latest court papers relate to the rogue unit report.
On Monday, Pillay filed papers in the case, indicating that he would also be seeking to review it. The Economic Freedom Fighters have sought to intervene in it.
In his short affidavit, Ramaphosa said it was clear that Gordhan’s case is a good faith dispute capable of being resolved through the courts. Any disciplinary action he took would “necessarily have to be informed” by what the court has been asked to resolve.
“In the circumstances, I respectfully submit that it would be premature for me to attempt to take “appropriate disciplinary” action against Minister Gordhan while the principle review application is still pending,” Ramaphosa said.