Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa asking him to intervene in her battle against Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, Business Day reports.
In the letter, Gordhan is once again accused of trying to “interfere” with her investigation, an accusation Mkhwebane has made previously.
According to Mkhwebane, Gordhan’s “conduct throughout these investigations” has not been “protective and helpful towards the public protector to ensure its independence and impartiality”.
She has requested that Ramaphosa “intervene” in the matter, declaring Gordhan’s behaviour “at odds with … the constitution”.
In April, Mkhwebane subpoenaed Gordhan, his lawyers confirmed at the time.
Mkhwebane gave the minister until April 23 to hand over all evidence relating to his alleged establishment of a “rogue unit” at Sars during his stint as its commissioner. She later extended this deadline to May 3.
Gordhan’s spokesperson Adrian Lackay called the subpoena evidence of “persistent harassment of Minister Gordhan and a flagrant abuse of office”.
His lawyers released a statement saying they would be “challenging the public protector to provide the factual basis for the statement suggesting that [the] minister is acting in concert with others and why he is referred to as an implicated party”.
Mkhwebane is also investigating Ramaphosa himself over his and his son’s relationship with hugely controversial facilities management company Bosasa “and the clear conflict of interest that exists between the Ramaphosa family and Bosasa”, based on a complaint lodged by the DA.
Her office is investigating Gordhan over three separate issues based on complaints from the EFF. These are the early retirement payout made to former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, an issue relating to tenders while Gordhan was Sars commissioner and, most controversially, the “rogue unit” allegations that are believed by some to have been debunked.
In 2015, the press ombudsman ruled that the Sunday Times must retract all stories on the “rogue unit saga” and to apologise to Pravin Gordhan as well as others implicated after Gordhan, former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, and former Sars executive Johann van Loggerenberg lodged a complaint.
Then, last year, the Nugent inquiry into tax administration, which looked at the situation at Sars, found that the establishment of the unit was in fact legal, with the former head of compliance at Sars, Gene Ravele, testifying that the unit did “important work” in busting criminal activities.
Despite this, the EFF has persisted in clinging to the “rogue unit” theory, including in a long rambling blog post by Shivambu, who also tweeted that the Sunday Times reports about the unit were “truthful” and shouldn’t have been withdrawn.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting by Gopolang Chawane and Sipho Mabena)