Gordhan writes to JSC to clarify meeting with Mogoeng

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Pravin Gordhan has sought to clarify a meeting he had with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in 2016. (Photo: Felix Dlanagamandla/Gallo Images/File)
Pravin Gordhan has sought to clarify a meeting he had with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in 2016. (Photo: Felix Dlanagamandla/Gallo Images/File)
  • Pravin Gordhan has written to the JSC to clarify a meeting he had with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in 2016.
  • He said the meeting was not about his friend, Judge Dhaya Pillay, but he did mention her interview.
  • Gordhan said he would never seek to influence Mogoeng improperly in the appointment of judges.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has written to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to give his side of the story after Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng hinted Gordhan conducted himself improperly at a meeting five years ago.

In the letter, addressed to commission secretary Sello Chiloane, Gordhan said he had only engaged with Mogoeng "in my official, professional capacity on several occasions".

Four such occasions at the time related to his position as finance minister, and the meeting referred to by Mogoeng - which Gordhan's records showed was on 6 April 2016 in Cape Town - could have touched on these matters.

He said these related to, first, recommendations of the Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, at a time when the fiscus was constrained due to the impact of the global financial crisis.

The second would have been a courtesy engagement about the appointment of retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe as Tax Ombud for a second three-year term, which was due in October 2016.

Third, there was the separation of the budget of the judiciary from that of the Department of Justice, concluded in 2015, and the last one was the Constitutional Court's Nkandla judgment, delivered by Mogoeng on 31 March 2016.

Gordhan said National Treasury was required by this judgment to determine the "reasonable percentage" of the "reasonable cost" of certain non-security upgrades at former president Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home. 

Treasury sought guidance on the practical implementation of "reasonable percentage" and "reasonable cost" for which the Constitutional Court had imposed a 60-day deadline, Gordhan said.

"I did not meet the chief justice in April 2016 to discuss Judge Pillay," he added. "The enquiry about Judge Pillay was purely incidental to the purpose of the meeting."

Gordhan said he mentioned the issue of the interviews in passing. "The CJ [chief justice] responded. I then left."

By that time, it was already known that Pillay did not get the job.

READ | 'You are nothing but a political activist' - Malema tells ConCourt judge candidate Dhaya Pillay

Gordhan admitted he was a friend of Pillay, "a political activist and a Comrade [sic] of long standing".

He said she was the life partner of the late anti-apartheid activist, Yunus Mahomed, who died in 2008, "with whom I had worked in the formation of civic organisations, later in the United Democratic Front, and in the ANC underground, during the 1970s and 1980s".

Gordhan added:

I did not meet the Chief Justice in April 2016 to discuss Judge Pillay. The enquiry about Judge Pillay was purely incidental to the purpose of the meeting. In any event, as the Chief Justice himself indicated at the JSC, by the time I met him, 'it was public knowledge that you (Judge Pillay) did not make it'.

He concluded his statement by saying: "I want to state emphatically that I would never, and nor did I, in any way, seek to influence the chief justice or the JSC in the appointment of judges, whose independence I have always respected.

"As a member of the executive branch of the state, I am very conscious of the fact that our democracy is based on the separation of powers and the relative independence of the judiciary, legislature and executive.

"Any misrepresentation, willfully or not, of the 6 April 2016 meeting with the chief justice, by political actors, who want to defend state capture and corruption, is highly regrettable."

Meanwhile, the EFF went to the Hillbrow police station on Wednesday afternoon to lay charges against Gordhan.

Its deputy leader, Floyd Shivambu, said the party had opened a case of corruption against Gordhan "because he tried to influence the chief justice to appoint his friend".

He added corruption was not just about the exchange of money, but also the "abuse of authority".

The EFF has vowed to take Gordhan on in a "three-pronged process" to hold him accountable: a police case, a case with the Public Protector, and a parliamentary inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Daily Maverick reported the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution had written to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise to ask what action Parliament would take over EFF leader Julius Malema's "unwarranted" and "unbecoming" comments about judges.

Malema is one of three opposition MPs out of six to represent Parliament on the JSC.

Section 165 stipulated all organs of state, including Parliament, must "assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts", according to the report. 

Malema most recently accused judges of applying the rule of law selectively and accused the state capture inquiry of not holding capital that he claims is owned by white people to account. He said Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was "not our god". 

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