Gordhan slams Mkhwebane over 'forgotten' Gupta meeting

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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan testifies at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan testifies at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has maintained he was "perfectly honest" in his response to Parliament in 2016 that omitted a 2010 meeting where a member of the Gupta family "may" have been present.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that Gordhan had violated the executive ethics code by "deliberately" misleading the National Assembly for failing to disclose that a member of the controversial Gupta family "may have been" present at the meeting in 2010.

The meeting was between Gordhan and billionaire businessman Anil Ambani.

Gordhan hit back in court papers which was filed in the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday.

READ: Gordhan files review of 'dishonest, reckless' Mkhwebane’s 'rogue unit' report

He asked the court to interdict remedial action recommended by Mkhwebane and to review and set aside the report.  

In her report that was released on Friday, which covered the issue together with several other allegations relating to the so-called "rogue unit" at the South African Revenue Service, Mkhwebane found it "implausible" that Gordhan had simply forgotten.

His response to a parliamentary question over whether he had ever met members of the Gupta family read: "I have not attended any meeting with the Gupta family or anyone else at their Saxonwold Estate. I have encountered one or more members of the family at public events on a few occasions, e.g. a cricket match. I have met one of the Gupta brothers at Mahlamba Ndlovu around 2009/2010 during which a brief discussion on small business finance took place."

Gordhan claimed during testimony at the Zondo commission into state capture earlier this year that he did not recall that a Gupta brother was present.

According to him, he was reminded of the meeting by National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogojane while preparing his testimony before the commission.

In court papers, Gordhan repeated that he simply did not recollect that Gupta might have been present.

"This was perfectly understandable as my meeting was not with any member of the Gupta family. My meeting was with Mr Ambani," Gordhan's affidavit read.

He added that Mkhwebane drew "baseless and scurrilous" conclusions that were not rational or fair.

READ: Mkhwebane is helping the state capture project by targeting me - Gordhan

The only reason advanced by Mkhwebane for finding he had deliberately misled the National Assembly, according to Gordhan, was that she found it "rather implausible when one considers the prominence of the subject of state capture in South Africa".

State capture was not, Gordhan argued, a prominent subject in 2010.

"However prominent the subject of state capture is in South Africa today, I fail to see how it enables the Public Protector to reject my evidence that I do not recall a member of the Gupta family purportedly being present at my meeting in mid-2010 with Mr Ambani.

"I can only infer that it is the product of the Public Protector's determination to malign me without reason or justification," Gordhan's affidavit read.

The Public Protector's spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said it would not be commenting yet.

Gordhan also argued in the court papers that Mkhwebane was at the centre of a politically motivated effort to remove him from office, and submitted that she was either biased or incompetent for failing to recognise and weigh the political motivations behind the complaints against him.

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