Mkhwe­bane is de­cep­tive – Gord­han

Min­is­ter riled up over Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor’s tweet ac­cus­ing him of ig­nor­ing her re­quests to an­swer to al­le­ga­tions re­lated to Ivan Pil­lay’s re­tire­ment

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MASONDO sipho.masondo@city­press.co.za

Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han has fired a salvo at Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane, ac­cus­ing her of ly­ing and of be­ing “de­cep­tive”. In a let­ter Gord­han sent to Mkhwe­bane on Fri­day through his lawyers Malatji Kanyane At­tor­neys, the min­is­ter laid into Mkhwe­bane af­ter she took to Twit­ter this week to claim that he hadn’t re­sponded to her let­ters dur­ing her in­ves­ti­ga­tion into him.

Gord­han has been sub­poe­naed to ap­pear be­fore Mkhwe­bane on Wed­nes­day – the week be­fore he is due to ap­pear be­fore the com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture.

“Any com­mu­ni­ca­tion that sug­gests that Min­is­ter Gord­han has not re­sponded to the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor’s en­quiries be­tween Fe­bru­ary and July 2018 – or that ‘re­sponses were not forth­com­ing’ – is sim­ply de­cep­tive, false and in­cor­rect,” the let­ter states.

Gord­han was re­spond­ing to a tweet on Thurs­day from Mkhwe­bane’s official Twit­ter ac­count, which said: “Did you know that PP @Ad­vBMkhwe­bane wrote to Min­is­ter Gord­han 4 times be­tween Fe­bru­ary 2018 and July 2018, re­quest­ing a re­sponse to the al­le­ga­tions lev­elled against him. When the re­sponses were not forth­com­ing, she is­sued a sub­poena on 02 Oc­to­ber 2018? #Let­sGetOurFact­sRight.”

Mkhwe­bane posted the tweet fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tion ear­lier this week that her of­fice had sub­poe­naed Gord­han to ap­pear be­fore her on Wed­nes­day. Mkhwe­bane is ex­pected to ques­tion Gord­han on his role in grant­ing early re­tire­ment to his for­mer SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) deputy com­mis­sioner, Ivan Pil­lay, in 2010. Gord­han was Sars com­mis­sioner at the time.

The news about Gord­han’s ap­pear­ance be­fore Mkhwe­bane is con­tained in his sub­mis­sion to the in­quiry, which is chaired by Jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo. In his af­fi­davit, which was leaked on Wed­nes­day, Gord­han told Zondo that Mkhwe­bane’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion was part of the “mis­use and abuse of pub­lic pow­ers for sus­pi­cious objectives”.

In Oc­to­ber 2016, for­mer Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity boss Shaun Abra­hams charged Gord­han, Sars ex­ec­u­tive Oupa Ma­gashula and Pil­lay with fraud in con­nec­tion with Pil­lay’s early re­tire­ment pack­age. Abra­hams dropped the charges in dra­matic fash­ion a week later.

In the let­ter to Mkhwe­bane, Gord­han’s at­tor­ney, Te­bogo Malatji, sets the record straight.

“On Fe­bru­ary 5 2018, [Mkhwe­bane] sent a let­ter to Min­is­ter Gord­han. The let­ter re­it­er­ated the very same al­le­ga­tions that were the sub­ject of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Direc­torate for Pri­or­ity Crime In­ves­ti­ga­tion and sub­se­quent crim­i­nal charges by the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity lev­elled against Min­is­ter Gord­han on Oc­to­ber 11 2016, re­gard­ing the early re­tire­ment of Mr Ivan Pil­lay and his sub­se­quent re-em­ploy­ment by Sars as deputy com­mis­sioner in 2010,” Malatji writes.

“On Oc­to­ber 31 2016, the crim­i­nal charges were with­drawn by the Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions based on, among other con­sid­er­a­tions, the writ­ten sub­mis­sions ... to the Hawks that showed that the crim­i­nal charges can­not be sus­tained on any fac­tual or le­gal ba­sis.

“In a sub­se­quent com­plaint to the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor in November 2016, it was al­leged that the ap­proval by Min­is­ter Gord­han of Mr Pil­lay’s early re­tire­ment amounted to mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion, dis­hon­est and im­proper con­duct by the min­is­ter in deal­ing with pub­lic funds,” the let­ter con­tin­ues.

“We wrote to the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor on 16 Fe­bru­ary 2018, ex­pressly stat­ing that we re­quire that we be pro­vided with the par­tic­u­lars and ev­i­dence of the al­leged dis­hon­esty and im­pro­pri­ety on the part of Min­is­ter Gord­han.”

Malatji said the of­fice of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor had not pro­vided any ev­i­dence, but had writ­ten to him, in­form­ing him that in­ves­ti­ga­tors were con­duct­ing a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The same let­ter, he said, was also to in­form Gord­han that Mkhwe­bane’s of­fice had no ev­i­dence im­pli­cat­ing him in any wrong­do­ing.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the of­fice of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor con­tacted our law firm on July 3 re­quest­ing that Min­is­ter Gord­han re­spond to the ini­tial let­ter of Fe­bru­ary 5. They did so de­spite the fact that no par­tic­u­lars had been pro­vided as re­quested. For the sake of co­op­er­at­ing with the Of­fice of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor, we ad­vised the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor that we will ob­tain the min­is­ter’s in­struc­tions,” the let­ter reads.

Th­ese in­struc­tions, Malatji said, were sought to con­firm whether Gord­han was obliged to re­spond to the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor’s Fe­bru­ary let­ter when no re­ply had been forth­com­ing from her of­fice.

“In the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod, the of­fice of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor pro­ceeded to is­sue a sub­poena on Oc­to­ber 1 for the min­is­ter to ap­pear be­fore her on November 14. Min­is­ter Gord­han will nev­er­the­less ap­pear be­fore the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor in re­sponse to the sub­poena.”

In his sub­mis­sion to the state cap­ture in­quiry, Gord­han also said the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor’s com­plaint against him was laid by Le­bo­gang Hoveka, a speech­writer in Deputy Pres­i­dent David Mabuza’s of­fice.

In a me­dia state­ment, Hoveka hit back at Gord­han, say­ing the min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion to name him was an “ap­palling and gra­tu­itous at­tempt to bully me and tarnish my good name”.

“It is trite law that my re­quest for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a pro­tected dis­clo­sure. It should never have been made pub­lic with­out the ex­press in­struc­tion of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor,” Hoveka said.

“I now fear for my life and safety. This is grossly un­fair and un­just. I can­not un­der­stand how we ex­pect peo­ple to re­port cor­rup­tion when such leaks sink into the pub­lic do­main. I felt it is my civic duty to re­port the mat­ter. It was my view that govern­ment monies were be­ing stolen and the coun­try opened to se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal risk.”

There was no col­lu­sion be­tween him and Mkhwe­bane, he said, adding that “Gord­han protests too much”.

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PRAVIN GORD­HAN

BU­SISIWE MKHWE­BANE

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