Public Protector: We're not fighting with Gordhan, we want to help him clear his name

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has suggested lawyers representing Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan are attempting to interfere with her investigation. 

Speaking to the media on Thursday on the sidelines of her investigation into the Vrede Dairy Farm, Mkhwebane said she was investigating Gordhan to help "clear his name". 

"We are investigating him to clear his name. We want him to assist us to do that. In this particular instance [...] we cannot be requested to provide documents and proofs. We are saying 'assist us to clear your name'," she said.

The Public Protector's investigation of the public enterprises minister is based on a complaint by the EFF's Deputy President Floyd Shivambu and an anonymous colleague, and centres on the establishment of the so-called "rogue unit" at the SA Revenue Service, where Gordhan was commissioner from 1999 to 2009. 

Special circumstances

Mkhwebane earlier in April subpoenaed Gordhan to respond to allegations about the creation of the unit, the appointment of former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, an IT tender and EFF leader Julius Malema's tax affairs.

The minister has since been granted a deadline extension until 3 May, Fin24 previously reported

On Thursday, Mkhwebane said aspects of the current investigation related to an earlier complaint dating back to 2016.

Gordhan's spokesperson, Adrian Lackay, previously referred to the subpoena as an example of "persistent harassment of Minister Gordhan and a flagrant abuse of office".

The minister's attorney, Tebogo Malatji, previously argued in a public statement that the "rogue unit" matter had been investigated previously. He said that Mkhwebane's predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Nugent Commission had previously considered the establishment of the so-called "rogue unit"  and found no wrongdoing.

Mkhwebane on Thursday confirmed that Gordhan's lawyers had also written to her asking for proof of special circumstances to continue her investigation, as the initial complaint was was not raised with her office within two years of the alleged incident. She added that Gordhan, through his attorney, also wanted to know the merit of the complainants.  

'We are not fighting'

"Even the behavior of the attorneys is very concerning because you don’t behave like that," she said. "Any state institution, any person, must never interfere with the work of the Public Protector."

Mkwebane said she had written to Gordhan raise her concerns. 

She added it was concerning that Gordhan was going to the media as if she was targeting or harassing him.

"We are not fighting with the minister. We only expect the minister to respect Section 95 of the Constitution, and act according to his oath of office."

Gordhan should rather be happy that she was trying to bring the matter to its finality, she added. 

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