'It was purely incidental' - Pravin Gordhan denies trying to influence chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan has described asking chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng about his friend and judge Dhaya Pillay's performance in Judicial Service Commission interviews as “purely incidental”.
Gordhan has denied that he attempted to influence Mogoeng to appoint Pillay who was vying for a vacant judge's post at the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2016.
Pillay is one of the judges now vying for positions at the Constitutional Court.
In a media statement that was released yesterday afternoon, after EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu made a complaint of corruption against the minister, Gordhan said he has written to the secretary of the JSC to provide clarity on the remarks made by Mogoeng.
Mogoeng revealed on Tuesday that Gordhan had asked to meet him and during that meeting asked how Pillay, who he referred to as “my friend”, had performed.
“I want to state emphatically that I would never and nor did I in any way, seek to influence the chief justice or the JSC in the appointment of judges, whose independence I have always respected,” Gordhan said.
He said as a member of the executive branch of the state, he is “very conscious of the fact that our democracy is based on the separation of powers and the relative independence of the judiciary, legislature and executive”.
Gordhan said according to his records, Mogoeng had agreed to meet him on April 6 2016 on matters related to his capacity as minister, which included costs for upgrades at former president Jacob Zuma's private residence in Nkandla.
“As I recall, after the completion of the cordial discussion with the chief justice in April 2016, on the matters for which the meeting was requested I, in passing, did refer to judge Dhaya Pillay’s interview with the JSC to fill positions for the Supreme Court of Appeal. The chief justice responded. I then left,” Gordhan said.
He said Pillay was his friend and “a political activist and a comrade of long standing”.
“I did not meet the chief justice in April 2016 to discuss judge Pillay. The inquiry about judge Pillay was purely incidental to the purpose of the meeting,” Gordhan said.
He added that in any event, by the time he met the chief justice, it was “public knowledge” that Pillay did not make it.
“Any misrepresentation, wilfully or not, of the April 6 2016 meeting with the chief justice by political actors who want to defend state capture and corruption, is highly regrettable.”
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