“I don’t want to be asked about the Public Protector; don’t give me that crap.”
These were Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s words when journalists circled him and requested interviews shortly after he and other members of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet were sworn in on Thursday afternoon.
Gordhan has returned to the public enterprises ministry he was deployed to last year when Ramaphosa replaced Jacob Zuma as president.
He refused to entertain any questions about Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report in which it was found that Gordhan had violated the Constitution when he granted former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay early retirement with full benefits in 2010.
The report received much criticism from civil society organisations and ANC alliance partners who are calling for Mkhwebane to resign.
Timing of the report
Some of the bodies include the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Freedom Under Law, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party.
Kathrada Foundation spokesperson Neeshan Balton questioned the authenticity of the report, saying that allegations against Gordhan had been tested in the courts.
Freedom Under Law questioned the timing of the report which was released just days before Ramaphosa was expected to announce his Cabinet.
Gordhan told journalists on Thursday that he had a job to do and he would execute the mandate the president had given him.
He said the ripple effects created by unlocking state capture would perpetuate “fake narratives”.
“You might also see an increase in the Bell Pottinger-type of activity, as well – so that you smear [those] who are actually doing the good work of exposing corruption. We will keep the public informed. We are not going to be intimidated in the course of doing that work.”
Gordhan denied allegations that he was a constitutional delinquent, saying that he helped draft the Constitution.
“They [should] just get good advice from good lawyers and it will tell them that is not the case,” he said.
The EFF, however, has thrown its weight behind Mkhwebane, saying anybody who disagreed with her report should take it to court on review.
The party has flip-flopped over her suitability for the post before, but its latest statement was to “stand up for the principle of taking disputed reports on review”.
“The EFF rejects calls for the removal of the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane from office, simply because she found against Pravin Gordhan,” the EFF stated on Monday.
“We reject the calls as a direct attack on a Chapter 9 constitutional institution. They are also reactionary and steeped in the politics of personality cult as they (the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation) portray Pravin Gordhan above the law and not subject to a Chapter 9 institution,” the EFF said.
Gordhan has since taken Mkhwebane’s report on review, asking the court to set aside both her decision to investigate and the report as “unconstitutional, unlawful, irrational and invalid”.
He is also seeking a punitive costs order against Mkhwebane.
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