High Court sets aside Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report on Pravin Gordhan, SARS 'rogue unit'

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
PHOTO: Raymond Morare
  • The Public Protector has been dealt a blow by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
  • The court also made stinging comments about Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's conduct.
  • It was found that Mkhwebane relied on "discredited" reports to reach her finding that Pravin Gordhan broke intelligence laws.

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has set aside Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report into the so-called SARS rogue unit.

The court handed down judgment on Monday, issuing a punitive costs order against Mkhwebane and describing her conduct as "egregious".

Mkhwebane found that former SARS commissioner Pravin Gordhan, who is currently the Minister of Public Enterprises, had inadvertently misled Parliament by failing to disclose a meeting he had with members of the Gupta family, and that he had violated intelligence laws by overseeing the establishment of an "intelligence unit" at SARS in 2007, also known as the rogue unit.

"In our view, this matter demonstrates that the Public Protector has failed to conduct her investigations in a manner befitting her office," the court found.

The court also pointed out that Mkhwebane relied on "discredited" reports to formulate her findings, and that she displayed a "manifest bias" towards Gordhan and former SARS executive, Ivan Pillay.

The court's judgment is scathing.

In its conclusion, it states: "The report fails at every point. We are satisfied that the report is the product of a wholly irrational process, bereft of any sound legal or factual basis. It cannot stand and must be set aside."

Johann van Loggerenberg, the former SARS executive in charge of the high-risk investigation unit (HRIU) told News24: "I have only received a copy of the judgment this morning and have yet to study it meaningfully.

"At the crux of it, I can only echo one quote in the judgement which, I have consistently maintained since day one, is the fundamental question. Despite being able to answer, it has never been posed to me, never been considered and never [been] taken into account by all the 'panels', 'investigations' and detractors of the unit. This remains the case to this day.

"The court said: 'In order to consider if the investigative unit functioned illegally and unlawfully, one has to reflect on what they did and how they did it.' I welcome the judgment."

This is a developing story.

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