FULL COVERAGE | Inside the stinging ruling against Busisiwe Mkhwebane's SARS report

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Jan Gerber, News24

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was today dealt yet another court blow, after the North Gauteng High Court found that she had displayed bias in her report into the so-called "rogue unit" at the SA Revenue Service (SARS).

It had set aside a 2019 report by Mkhwebane that Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, formerly the SARS commissioner, had violated the Constitution and intelligence laws by setting up the unit back in 2007.

The unit was accused of undertaking unlawful intelligence gatherings, such as planting listening devices at the home of former president Jacob Zuma. These allegations were published by the Sunday Times, which later retracted and apologised for them.

Pravin Gordhan.

The unit was in reality a legitimate investigative unit within the enforcement division of SARS, and had been known at various times as the special projects unit and the national research group. It was disbanded in 2014. 

The court described Mkhwebane's conduct as "egregious", further finding that she displayed "bias" toward Gordhan and former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. It found that she had no regard for the withdrawal of a KPMG report into allegations of a rogue unit, and that she failed to apply her mind to the infamous Sikhakane Report, which the court had found had reached incorrect conclusions.

The court also said she had lied about being in possession of a classified Inspector General of Intelligence report.

The ruling stated that Mkhwebane's "report failed at every point. We are satisfied that the report is the product of a wholly irrational process."

In response, SARS said the ruling brought "necessary closure" to the "rogue unit" saga, and "confirms SARS' powers to gather intelligence relating to tax offences." The tax authority said it is still working on restoring its capacity and integrity.

Mkhwebane's office said in a statement today that the ruling "focused purely on the laws that were breached when an illegal intelligence unit was established at SARS and the unlawful operations the unit engaged in."

The statement said she is studying the grounds at which the court set aside her report, adding that the judgment mentioned the "vitriol" from Gordhan at Mkhwebane's litigation, saying that the court labelled the behaviour as "irrelevant, scandalous and prejudicial."

RUNDOWN: Here are our top reads on this ruling

THE STORY | Court blasts discredited source documents Mkhwebane relied on for SARS rogue unit findings

THE REACTION | 'I can only echo the judgment': Johann van Loggerenberg, former SARS exec reacts

MKHWEBANE EVISCERATED | This ruling should end the fake news and propaganda surrounding SARS, argues News24's Pieter du Toit

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