Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has no evidence of wrongdoing against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, with her office unable to provide the evidence requested by the minister in February.
His lawyers have said that the Public Protector made this admission in a letter sent to Gordhan dated 28 February, but in the same letter, Mkhwebane’s office indicated that she was conducting a preliminary investigation.
“In the said letter, (Mkhwebane) indicated that her Office has no evidence implicating Minister Gordhan of any wrongdoing,” his lawyer, Tebogo Malatji said in a statement.
Mkhwebane is probing allegations of maladministration, dishonest and improper conduct against Gordhan following a complaint from presidency staffer Lebogang Hoveka in November 2016 related to the approval of former South African Revenue Services (Sars) deputy commissioner. Mr Ivan Pillay’s early retirement.
In October 2016 the National Prosecuting Authority withdrew criminal charges against Gordhan in relation to the same matter but a fresh complaint was lodged with the Public Protector the following month.
But it was only in February this year that Gordhan received a letter indicating that he was being investigated, according to his lawyers.
Malatji said on 16 February 2018 they wrote to Mkhwebane expressly stating that they be provided the particulars and evidence of the allegations against the minister.
“Subsequent thereto, the investigators in (Mkhwebane’s office) contacted our law firm on 3 July 2018 requesting that (Gordhan) respond to the initial letter of 5 February 2018. They did so despite the fact that no particulars had been provided as requested,” Malatji said.
He said that in the intervening period, Mkhwebane proceeded to issue a subpoena on 01 October 2018 for the minister to appear before her this Wednesday.
“Any communication that suggests that (Gordhan) has not responded to the Public Protector’s enquiries between February and July 2018 – or that ‘responses were not forthcoming’ – is simply deceptive, false and incorrect,” he charged.
Malatji said Gordhan was yet to receive any particulars or evidence of maladministration, dishonesty or impropriety referred to in the Public Protector’s initial correspondence of 5 February 2018 and her subpoena of 1 October 2018.
“Minister Gordhan will nonetheless appear before the Public Protector in response to the subpoena,” he said.