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
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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