Gordhan granted extension to respond to Mkhwebane’s ‘rogue unit’ probe

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seen during a press briefing at the Public Protector's offices in Hatfield, 19 December 2018, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seen during a press briefing at the Public Protector's offices in Hatfield, 19 December 2018, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The minister complained that seven working days was not enough time to produce his affidavit with evidence.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has been granted more time to file his evidence in the so-called rogue unit case with the public protector’s office after the incumbent Busisiwe Mkhwebane subpoenaed him for it earlier this month.

Mkhwebane had given Gordhan until 1pm today to hand over all evidence relating to his alleged establishment of an allegedly clandestine illegal intelligence unit, often referred to controversially as the “rogue unit”, in violation of the country’s intelligence protocols during his stint as Sars commissioner in 2007.

However, Gordhan told talk radio 702 this morning that a seven working days deadline hadn’t given him enough time to respond.

Mkhwebane granted him an extension, which was confirmed by her office on Tuesday afternoon. Gordhan has until May 3 to submit the evidence.

“In the spirit of fairness, I have decided to grant Minister Gordhan the extension he has requested so that he may have a reasonable opportunity to gather the information I need as some of it goes a few years back. He requested the extension, citing a decision by Sars to procure a legal opinion from counsel on whether it would be lawful to share with implicated parties, including Minister Gordhan, certain records that are in its possession,” said Mkhwebane in a statement.

Read her full statement below:

The complaint against Gordhan was laid by EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu.

Gordhan’s spokesperson, Adrian Lackay, had earlier this month said there were three investigations conducted on the matter and none had found the establishment of the high-risk investigative unit illegal.

“Even Judge Nugent made it clear that there was nothing in law or evidence pointing to the unit having been illegal. Despite this, the office of the public protector elects to pursue the matter.

“This is when the country is gripped by the body of evidence of corruption coming out of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. Yet [Mkhwebane] chooses to prioritise this investigation, despite three investigations finding nothing illegal,” Gordhan said.

Lackay said they had planned a briefing session with Gordhan’s lawyers to think of an appropriate response to the subpoena.

Mkhwebane said she noted with disappointment the leaking of the subpoena within hours of it having been served on Gordhan and the related commentary attributed to both Gordhan’s attorney and Lackay.

Her spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said the utterances reduced Mkhwebane’s legitimate investigation to a harassment of Gordhan.

“This comes on the back of similarly baseless comments in the public domain that Mkhwebane’s investigations concerning allegations levelled against Gordhan are part of factional battles involving a political party,” he said.

Segalwe charged that Mkhwebane had, in the past, subpoenaed and interviewed a number of ministers, members of executive councils and premiers as part of investigations. He said not once did any of these public office-bearers take issue with this, label it “harassment”, or see the investigation as a source of irritation.

He said Mkhwebane viewed her investigation as essentially a fact-finding mission that could go either way.

He said the fact that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) abandoned criminal charges against Gordhan on similar issues had no bearing on Mkhwebane’s probe.

Segalwe said another false statement was that the “rogue unit” matter had been dealt with by former public protector Thuli Madonsela and that she had found no wrongdoing.

Segalwe said the truth was that a former South African Revenue Service employee had approached the public protector in 2012, alleging that the appointment of investigators to a “National Research Group” at Sars was irregular as there were no formal employment contracts.

Segalwe said that investigation, which was closed on October 11, 2017, and not by Madonsela as alleged, on the grounds that it was being dealt with by the Inspector General of Intelligence, was part of a backlog of cases now being addressed.

(Background reporting, Sipho Mabena)

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