ANC's integrity commission says it sees no reason why Gordhan should be called to appear before it

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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams)
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams)
  • Phapano Phasha, an ANC member at the Brian Bunting branch, wrote to the party's integrity commission, calling for Pravin Gordhan to appear before it. 
  • According to Phasha, the minister had brought the party into disrepute. 
  • She wrote two letters to the commission, one in May 2019 and another this year.  

The ANC's integrity commission has decided that complaints laid by Brian Bunting branch member, Phapano Phasha, against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan do not warrant him being called before it.

Phasha wrote to the commission with complaints against Gordhan on various issues - which, among others, include his approval of former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay's early retirement and rehiring; alleged involvement in the so-called "SARS Rogue Unit"; alleged involvement in the appointment of his niece as a trustee of the Eskom Pension Fund; and racial discrimination in appointments made at the Department of Public Enterprises and state-owned entities. 

Phasha wrote two letters to the commission - one in 2019 and another July 2020 - where she relayed her complaints about the minister, alleging he was bringing the party into disrepute.

FIRST TAKE | The death of the SARS ‘rogue unit’ fiction and the evisceration of Busisiwe Mkhwebane

In its response, dated 15 October 2020, which News24 has seen, the commission said it considered all the complaints against Gordhan, but did not believe it warranted any reason for the minister to be called to account.

On Saturday, Phasha confirmed to News24 she received the reply from the commission regarding her complaints "a while back". 

She said she had written a follow-up letter this year, after the commission failed to reply to the previous one she lodged in May 2019.

Replying to the complaint against the minister's approval of Pillay's retirement and rehiring, the commission said the National Prosecuting Authority withdrew criminal charges of fraud against Gordhan on the matter - and said it was not aware of any findings by a criminal court that the minister was engaged in a corrupt relationship with Pillay. 

The commission said: 

The Public Protector made no finding that comrade Gordhan had a generally corrupt relationship with comrade Pillay. The integrity commission is aware that the Public Protector's report of May 2019 and her finding that comrade Gordhan's approval of comrade Pillay's early retirement was irregular is the subject of review proceedings before the North Gauteng Division of the High Court. The review was argued on 30 September and 1 October 2020.

"Implementation of the remedial action directed against the president - namely that the president takes appropriate disciplinary action against comrade Gordhan for failing to uphold the values and principles of public administration in s195 of the Constitution - has been interdicted until the review has been finalised.

"The integrity commission will wait for the review application to be finalised before deciding whether it is necessary to call comrade Gordhan to account for his decision."

In her complaint, Phasha also made a statement that, despite continuous media reports, "investigations by five independent institutions, bodies and tribunals found Gordhan guilty of having established a rogue and illegal unit", which the commission noted  was wrong.

The commission said issues of SARS' conduct were a subject of review proceedings in the high court, and that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had found Gordhan guilty of maladministration for approving the unlawful unit.

"The Public Protector relied on the now discredited report of the Inspector General for her finding that an unlawful covert information gathering unit existed at SARS.

"The review was argued at the same time as the review of comrade Gordhan's decision to approve comrade Pillay's early retirement. A decision is pending. The integrity commission will wait for the review application to be finalised before deciding whether it is necessary to call comrade Gordhan to account for his approval of the SARS unit.

"The integrity commission does not wish to speculate on the outcome of the review. But, given the extent to which the Sikhakhane Panel Report has been discredited, there is no credible evidence that an unlawful covert intelligence gathering unit existed at SARS and no basis on which to call comrade Gordhan to account for such," it said. 

On the complaint about Gordhan's alleged involvement in corruption in awarding of IT systems at National Treasury and SARS, the commission said there were no details involving the minister, adding it was also unaware of any investigations linking him to tender irregularities at the offices. 

Phasha said she would be challenging the commission's decision, adding that she found the opening statements of its reply "condescending and very patronising". 

She said she has referred the document to her legal team to look into it.

The opening reply from the commission reads: 

The integrity commission has taken note of the fact that you make your complaint in your capacity as a member of the Brian Bunting branch of the ANC. We acknowledge your right, as a member of the ANC, to complain about the alleged unethical conduct of any member of the ANC, including comrade Gordhan. We take note further of the fact that your two letters of complaint include the official ANC logo. It is not clear to us from your letters of complaint on what basis you have authority, as an ordinary member of the ANC, to use the official logo of the ANC. Kindly advise us accordingly.

Phasha said the response from the commission seemed as though it had already made a conclusion on all the issues she raised in her complaint against Gordhan. 

"And, for me, this [decision] reinforces the notion that the committee itself brushes issues aside. I don't even think it was the chair of the commission himself who wrote this. 

"They are saying they are waiting for court processes to be finalised [and] so it means that the "step aside" doesn't apply anyway. My other issue is consistency, but I am going to take them on. I am going to be responding to them now," she said. 

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