#JOHANNESBURG: Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is laying criminal charges against a personal assistant in Pravin Gordhan’s office for “suspected fraud” over a letter she sent the public enterprises minister, which he said he did not receive.
Mkhwebane’s legal adviser informed Gordhan’s lawyers, Malatjie Kanyane Incorporated, last week that a criminal case would be opened against the minister’s PA as they had evidence that a letter sent on April 24 2019 was delivered to the ministry.
The move further escalates the onslaught against Gordhan, after the public protector instituted two investigations against him and informed his lawyers that she was holding the minister in contempt for not responding to her letter by May 3.
The letter was part of a flurried exchange between the two offices over the investigation of former South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement, as well as a complaint by EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu about the alleged “rogue unit” at the tax authority.
The Sunday Times understands that Mkhwebane has also threatened to report Gordhan’s attorney, Tebogo Malatjie, to the Law Society as she does not like his attitude.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, yesterday confirmed the charges against the secretary.
He said an internal investigation by the public protector’s IT unit concluded that e-mail correspondence to the minister via his executive secretary may have been “fraudulently edited” to reflect that it was only sent on May 7.
On Friday, Mkhwebane announced at a media briefing that Gordhan was guilty of “improper conduct” over his approval of Pillay’s pension payout. In her report, Mkhwebane tells President Cyril Ramaphosa to take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan for violating the constitution.
Mkhwebane’s media briefing is widely viewed as an attempt to upstage Ramaphosa’s inauguration yesterday and to leave him no option but to exclude Gordhan from his new cabinet.
Gordhan, Pillay and former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula have all announced that they will take Mkhwebane’s report on review to the high court. All three filed representations to the public protector in the past week but these were dismissed by her.
Gordhan said in a statement that he was advised by his senior legal counsel that Mkhwebane’s findings were “totally wrong both in fact and in law”.
The Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority previously tried to charge Gordhan in connection with Pillay’s early retirement but former national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams backtracked on this, saying there was no criminal intention in the approval of the pension payout.
Gordhan to act on Mkhwebane’s ill-timed announcement
Public enterprises minister plans to institute immediate review proceedings against the public protector’s findings that he had acted improperly in approving an early pension payout for former senior SA Revenue Service (Sars) official Ivan Pillay.
Gordhan’s lawyers said in a statement on Friday, just hours after advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane announced her findings, that they were “totally wrong both in fact and in law”.
“Our client, Minister Pravin Gordhan, will institute immediate review proceedings against the Public Protector’s report and findings, including the proposed remedial action, that she announced to the media today.”
“In light of the most recent judgment in relation to the Vrede Dairy Project, Minister Gordhan is of the view that the Public Protector has once again erred in her findings and proposed remedial action. We are instructed to institute review proceedings immediately,” said the statement issued on behalf of Gordhan.
“Minister Gordhan takes issue with both the haste and the timing of the release of her report. The complaint involves complex considerations of pension fund laws in as far they relate to public servants. It is doubtful whether due consideration was given to Minister Gordhan’ submissions.
“The haste and the timing of the Public Protector shows a complete disregard for a an important constitutional event for our country, the inauguration of the President of the Republic of South Africa.”
Mkhwebane said, while releasing her findings on Friday, she wa