Mkhwebane says she’s ‘ready for all the backlash’ as she subpoenas Gordhan yet again

The public protector says she's just doing her job, while referring to the 'rogue unit' as though that is its official name.

In a video posted to the public protector’s official YouTube account on Monday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says her investigations of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan are far from over, and she will be “doing her work” despite a “media narrative” that she is “targeting” Gordhan.

She denies this being true, pointing out that she never asked anyone to complain against the minister, and she is merely investigating every complaint.

She has issued another Section 7(9) notice to Gordhan on his alleged meetings with the Guptas and his involvement with the “rogue unit”.

“I am ready to receive all the backlash,” she said.

She has already made one adverse finding against Gordhan in relation to his decision to approve early retirement for Ivan Pillay when Gordhan was the SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner. She called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to discipline Gordhan.

The minister has taken that report on judicial review.

Mkhwebane announced on Monday that more such reports are coming, and she has served Gordhan with yet another subpoena in terms of her powers to “get his side of the story” in relation to further complaints laid against him.

She said in her YouTube video that this was the only way for her to tell her side of the story and get around the alleged media bias against her.

Mkhwebane said her first subpoena to Gordhan had been in relation to Pillay’s pension payout. She said it was normal practice for her, but the media had portrayed it as targeting him.

She said another complaint against Gordhan from 2016 was in relation to alleged irregular tender processes for Sars contracts awarded to software development firm BBD and state-owned software firm Interfront.

“That investigation is in progress.”

She said the EFF and an anonymous complainant had lodged further complaints against Gordhan, particularly regarding the “rogue unit”.

“When I receive a complaint, I will have to approach the person for their side,” which she claimed was normal for all ministers complained against.

Curiously, Mkhwebane refers to the “rogue unit” matter-of-factly simply as the rogue unit, as though she has already accepted that Sars’s High-Risk Investigative Unit was set up and operated illegally – something which those who were involved with it strongly deny.

Gordhan’s spokesperson, Adrian Lackay, has previously called Mkwebane’s investigation of the unit an “abuse of her office”.

Lackay told Fin24 in April: “The same set of allegations have been investigated repeatedly by various institutions – including the office of the public protector in 2014 – and no conclusive evidence could be found of any illegality by Sars or Minister Gordhan.”

Retired Judge Robert Nugent also found last year in his report following his inquiry into Sars that the unit had not been unlawful, but conceded that some of the activities of some of the unit’s members could have been unlawful, which he said was a “different matter”.

Mkhwebane said she was interested in all the facts around the rogue unit: “The processes that were followed, the recruitment, the procurement of the equipment, the operations.”

A further complaint against Gordhan, she said, was that he had allegedly lied in parliament about his meetings with the Guptas and there was another complaint related to his control of Treasury.

“We will still go back to him and request information.”

She said it was a challenge to her that “there was a serious attack against the person of the public protector” after she released her previous report, but this would not dissuade her.

“I’m doing my work. I’m ready to receive all the backlash.”

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