Gordhan will challenge Public Protector’s findings against him

2019-05-24 18:59

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan will institute review proceedings against the Public Protector’s report and findings, including the proposed remedial action, that she announced to the media today.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found Gordhan guilty of “improper conduct” over his approval of then-deputy South African Revenue Services Commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement and payout. She made the announcement at a media briefing on Friday afternoon.

In a statement released on Friday night, Gordhan’s lawyer Tebogo Malatji said that they believed that the Public Protector’s findings were “totally wrong both in fact and in law”.

Malatji said that it didn’t seem as though their legal submissions to her office on May 22 were taken into account.

In her remedial findings, Mkhwebane urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan for violating the Constitution.

She also said that steps needed to be taken to recover the money.

In a six-page statement that she read out and shared with the media, Mkhwebane said that Gordhan should not have approved the early retirement with full pension benefits of Pillay in 2010 and his re-employment on a fixed term contract. Gordhan was finance minister at the time.

Gordhan’s lawyer said Gordhan took 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”.

Malatjie added that the haste and the timing of the Public Protector “shows a complete disregard for an important constitutional event for our country, the inauguration of the president of the Republic of South Africa”.

Pravin Gordhan’s statement about the Public Protector sets out the following timeline:
  • Shortly before Minister Pravin Gordhan was about to deliver the 2016 budget to Parliament, he received 27 questions, on February 19 2016, from the Hawks relating to, among others, his approval of Mr Ivan Pillay’s retirement benefits. Gordhan responded to the 27 questions extensively on March 30 2016.
  • On October 11 2016, Gordhan was criminally charged in relation to Mr Pillay’s early retirement.
  • On October 31 2016, the NPA withdrew the charges, two days before the date of the appearance. We can only deduce that the withdrawal of the charges was premised on the fact that the national director of public prosecutions, who appeared on national TV, accepted that the charges were not legally sustainable, based on our prior submissions.
  • Two years later, on October 1 2018, the Public Protector issued a subpoena that Gordhan must appear before her in relation to the very same charges that were withdrawn by the director of public prosecutions.
  • Gordhan appeared before the Public Protector on November 14 2018.
  • On May 2 this year Gordhan received a notice in terms of Section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act, to respond to various grounds on which the Public Protector intended to make adverse findings against him. A response was required within 14 days.
  • On May 22 2019, we submitted Gordhan’s response to the Section 7(9) notice of the Public Protector.
  • On May 24 2019, we received a letter from the Public Protector advising that she was declining Gordhan’s request that he be given a further opportunity to make submissions on appropriate remedial action. The Public Protector’s Section 7(9) notice did not set out the proposed remedial action, hence the request.

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September 15 2019