At a media briefing in which she announced the release of six new reports, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane detailed new findings relating to Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.
Among these is Mkhwebane finding that Gordhan lied to both parliament and the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture when he said he couldn’t recall meeting members of the controversial Gupta family.
According to Mkhwebane, this amounts to a violation of the executive ethics code and proves him to have conducted himself in a way that is “not consistent with his office”.
An investigation into Gordhan, which the public protector said was conducted “under extremely difficult conditions”, also contains another bombshell – that the so-called “rogue unit” was real.
Mkhwebane said the allegation of the establishment of a Sars intelligence unit – often called the rogue unit – is substantiated, and that Gordhan should have been aware of the unit while operating as Sars commissioner. She added that he believes that he “was aware”.
Mkhwebane said Gordhan’s conduct relating to the intelligence unit violated the constitution.
Gordhan, according to Mkhwebane, played a role in recruiting Johan Van Loggerenberg to the unit.
Mkhwebane also said she possessed evidence that would prove that intelligence equipment was procured for use by the unit, and that this equipment was procured improperly. She says Sars has not provided her with the information she requested on this equipment.
According to the public protector, former Sars head Oupa Magashula lied under oath about the existence of the unit.
The public protector also found that former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s appointment was irregular. A previous report found the same regarding the approval of Pillay’s early retirement by Gordhan.
Mkhwebane also addressed the finding by the Nugent commission, which looked into alleged wrongdoing at Sars, that the so-called “rogue unit” operated legally. According to the public protector, this finding does not constitute one made by a constitutional body, and while her office conducted a full investigation into the matter, retired judge Robert Nugent’s inquiry did not.
Mkhwebane has now ordered President Cyril Ramaphosa, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the national police commissioner, the speaker of the National Assembly and the minister of state security to apply the various remedial actions stipulated in the report.
These includes the president taking “appropriate disciplinary action” against Gordhan; parliamentary speaker Thandi Modise hauling Gordhan in front of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests; the NPA finalising the court process relating to its investigation into the “rogue unit”; and police commissioner Khehla Sithole investigating Gordhan’s “criminal conduct”.
She has also recommended that Police Minister Bheki Cele investigate criminality on the part of Gordhan and others involved in the intelligence unit.
Mkhwebane said the Sars matter was one of public importance, and that she was able to compile and release it relatively quickly due to it centring on what she found were several violations to the ethics code by Gordhan.
She added that this aspect of the investigation – the executive ethics code violations – could take place relatively quickly, and she would now deal with other matters relating to Gordhan in a second investigation.
Mkhwebane confirmed that the investigation stemmed from complaints laid by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
At the briefing, Mkhwebane also announced the release of other reports.
One focuses on an RDP house that was meant for an unemployed Tshwane resident but was allocated to someone else. The public protector ruled in favour of the complainant.
Another report focuses on the unlawful demolition of a shack by the City of Tshwane. Mkhwebane once again ruled in favour of the complainant, who must now be reimbursed for the damages by the City, which must also issue an apology.
Another report stems from a complaint relating to the City of Cape Town’s failure to properly regulate the operations of Uber drivers.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)