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Busi's timing on Gordhan is suspicious

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan is not above the law. No person is, for that matter.

So if there is a case that he needs to answer before any of the country's institutions set up in terms of the constitution, so he should.

However it is difficult not to be suspicious of the motives behind the seemingly sudden revival of the investigation into his role in offering Ivan Pillay an early retirement package as the deputy commissioner at SA Revenue Services.

The Pillay pension saga, and Gordhan's alleged role in it, was at the centre of the campaign by supporters of then president Jacob Zuma to remove the minister from cabinet about two years ago,

It resulted in the National Prosecuting Authority charging Gordhan with fraud, only for then NPA head Shaun Abrahams to withdraw the charges on the grounds that there was no case against Gordhan.

It is therefore curious that public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has decided to pick up the matter two years after Abrahams concluded there was no case.

What also leaves a bitter taste in the mouth about the public protector's investigation is that it is based on a complaint by a former speech-writer in Zuma presidential office.

The speech-writer, Lebogang Hoveka, apparently lodged a complaint with the public protector in November 2016, just three weeks after Abrahams decision to withdraw the charges.

Why then is the public protector only now summoning Gordhan to appear before her?

We have the utmost respect for the public protector's office and wish Mkhwebane all the success during her tenure.

However, for her to succeed, it is important that her investigations are seen to be independent; impartial and not influenced by any political considerations.

Gordhan clearly believes that Mkhwebane's investigation is part of the "misuse and abuse of public powers for suspicious objectives".

But it may very well be that Mkhwebane has no "suspicious objectives" and that she is simply carrying out her constitutional duties the best way she can.

However, she needs to explain the timing, given that the subpoena came so close to the date when Gordhan is supposed to appear before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo to give testimony about state capture and Zuma's role in it.

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