Mkhwebane disappointed by Gordhan's 'personal insults'

Public protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

The court application by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan to review the report that found he violated the constitution is cloaked in personal insults, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said on Thursday.

Mkhwebane and Gordhan have been engaged in a public spat and war of words which is set to play itself out in the courts after the latter challenged two of the reports that made adverse findings against him.

In two of her reports – which both circled around Gordhan’s tenure at the South African Revenue Service – Mkhwebane found that he had violated the constitution and called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to institute disciplinary action against him.

Gordhan has asked the courts to review and set aside both reports but Mkhwebane is not impressed with the wording used in the applications.

In her recent report, Mkhwebane found that during his tenure as commissioner, an intelligence unit termed the "rogue unit" was illegally established at Sars.

According to Mkhwebane, Sars had neither the mandate nor the authority to create such an operation which was used to gather “information covertly” as only the State Security Agency could establish such a unit.

“Adv Mkhwebane wishes to record her disappointment at how the court application is cloaked in the indignity of personal insults. She will only be commenting on the facts of the matter as engaging in the personal insults is below the dignity of the high offices of the responsibility which she and the minister occupy,” a statement from her office read.

In the court application, Gordhan’s legal team questioned Mkhwebane’s comprehension of the law, especially on her findings that Sars was not allowed to create an intelligence unit.

“The public protector misapplies the provisions of the constitution and applicable legislation when making adverse findings. For example, section 209 of the constitution regulates the establishment of intelligence services. It does not prevent Sars from establishing an investigative unit,” Gordhan’s lawyers said.

Mkhwebane said that her office had not received the court papers at noon on Thursday but expressed her intention of defending her report.

“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 findings,” Mkhwebane said.

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