We did not expect Pravin Gordhan to take Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s adverse report on him lying down. Whatever you say about the former public enterprises minister, you cannot say he is afraid of a fight.
Now he has not only gone to court to get her report reviewed and set aside, his lawyers are also asking that her conduct in putting the report together – and releasing it at a critical juncture in the process leading up to the Cabinet announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa – be declared “unconstitutional, unlawful, irrational and invalid”.
In an indication of his pique, Gordhan is demanding that a punitive costs order be given against the public protector. If this happens it will be a mark of a court’s displeasure at her and will be the second time one has been given against her. If Gordhan is successful in his review application, it will be the latest in a number of legal smack-downs for Mkhwebane.
The High Court in Pretoria last week also set aside Mkhwebane’s report into the Gupta-linked Estina dairy project, calling her investigation flawed and inadequate. It also noted that she was either unaware of the powers of her office or incompetent.
An earlier report about Absa and the South African Reserve Bank was also set aside by the court, which found that Mkhwebane “does not fully understand her constitutional duty to be impartial and to perform her functions without fear, favour or prejudice”.
If Gordhan wins, not only will he be vindicated, but there must surely be an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. She has long been suspected of being part of a “fightback” campaign on behalf of the disgraced Jacob Zuma clique and has done nothing other than add to those suspicions.
We await the court’s findings on her report with keen interest.