Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has questioned why the details of private bank statements of some people who are said to have benefited from the VBS Mutual Bank scandal were published, but the CR17 fund records were sealed by the courts.
Addressing students at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) south campus in Soshanguve, Pretoria on Thursday, Mkhwebane said: “Again, details of private bank statements of some people who are said to have benefited from the VBS scandal are published all the time.
“I don’t speak for those accused, but why is it that no one has come forward to say it is wrong to publish such private information?”
“I pose these questions because when bank statements pertaining to a certain case of campaign funding are published, we see the courts going as far as to seal that information from the public without even having the case argued in an open court.
“We see the information regulator stepping in. Where is the consistency?”
Mkhwebane was addressing students about “good governance, accountability and transparency”.
In July, Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa had deliberately misled parliament when responding to a question about a R500,000 donation to his 2017 ANC presidential campaign. She recommended that the campaign be investigated for money laundering.
But Ramaphosa has taken that report on review, and has argued that Mkhwebane overstepped her authority by expanding her investigation from the R500,000 donation, to the financing of his entire campaign.
Ramaphosa had raised questions about where Mkhwebane received some of the bank statements contained in her Bosasa report, going as far as suggesting that she obtained them unlawfully.
Mkhwebane’s office, however, maintains that her report is above board.
Ramaphosa had approached the Gauteng High Court in a bid to have certain bank statements in her report sealed and not made available to the public.
Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba later issued a directive which effectively sealed the file, until the dispute over the legality of the evidence could be resolved.
Mkhwebane also once again took aim at President Cyril Rampahosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, questioning the consistency of the president’s actions.
Early in her term, she said, she had made adverse findings against former ministers Lynne Brown and Des van Rooyen, finding they had breached the executive code of ethics by misleading the National Assembly.
Mkhwebane added when she directed Ramaphosa to take action against them, he applied his mind on the matter and relieved them of their duties.
“I have letters from the director-general in the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, in which he confirms that the two were dismissed from the Cabinet on the basis of my findings.”
Mkhwebane said she had also issued a report in which she found that Gordhan had breached the ethics code by misleading the National Assembly with regards to whether or not he had met with members of the Gupta family.
She also separately found that he had acted improperly in respect of his role in the establishment of the so-called rogue unit at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) in 2007.
Gordhan was the commissioner of Sars at the time.
Mkhwebane said in the remedial action, she had directed the president to take action against him without prescribing the nature of the action that needed to be taken.
“You can imagine my astonishment when it was alleged that I was attempting to scupper his chances of appointment to the Cabinet.”
In July, Gordhan was granted an interdict in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to suspend the remedial action ordered in the rogue unit report against him while he sought a full judicial review.
In her report, she recommended that Ramaphosa should discipline Gordhan within 30 days.
Mkhwebane also directed the police and National Prosecuting Authority to consider instituting criminal charges against him.
However, Ramaphosa did not take action against Gordhan, citing the fact that his minister had approached the High Court to review the public protector’s report.
The president was found to have acted reasonably in not taking action against Gordhan when Judge Letty Molopa-Sethosa ruled in the case in August.
On Thursday, Mkhwebane said when Van Rooyen took her findings on review, this did not stop Ramaphosa from taking action against him.
“In another case, we are told no action was being taken because the affected party had approached the courts for a review. Again I ask, where is the consistency?”
Mkhwebane also likened herself to judges, in terms of her office having similar powers.