President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision not to take action against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan – as recommended by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in her remedial action in the former revenue service official Ivan Pillay report – is “causing a bloodbath to the country’s democracy.”
This was the argument presented by Advocate Dali Mpofu while representing Mkhwebane in the president’s review application at the Pretoria High Court on Thursday.
He said that Ramaphosa’s delay in taking action against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan over Pillay’s early retirement would lead to the office of the Public Protector being “killed and blunted” as its effectiveness would be put into question.
Ramaphosa’s delay came as a result of Gordhan’s pending legal challenge to the findings made against him over the Pillay retirement.
“The whole country must be held at ransom for four to five years, until Mr Gordhan and Mr Ramaphosa are out of office to do a simple disciplinary procedure, versus what is on the other side of the scale,” argued Mpofu.
He went on to imply that the country was, by the president’s stance, being held at ransom at the convenience of Gordhan.
He said implementing the remedial action was as simple as requesting “Gordhan to drive to the president’s office and just being told [by the president] to not do it again.”
Mpofu said Ramaphosa was going out of his way to “associate” with Gordhan, who had insulted the Public Protector in his application to interdict Mkhwebane.
“Ramaphosa may have been an accomplice to Gordhan’s insults, if not a perpetrator,” said Mpofu.
He argued that the president had a constitutional duty to ensure that Mkhwebane’s dignity was maintained.
Mpofu rejected arguments made by Gordhan and the president’s counsel that it was common practice for the Public Protector to not oppose applications for stays of her remedial action pending legal review.
Lawyers for the president contended that the ruling given by the high court on Monday, in which Judge Sulet Potterill granted Gordhan’s application for a stay of Mkhwebane’s remedial action against him, clearly supported his stance in waiting for the outcome of the Gordhan review.
Mpofu alleged that the president was merely allowing himself to be a proxy for Gordhan and applied for the interdict to “pause” disciplinary action against the minister.
“The president could be bought by Gordhan,” Mpofu argued.
Ramaphosa’s counsel said, by not acting, he was trying to avoid making an “unreasonable” decision.
Ramaphosa made it clear in the court papers filed on Wednesday that he is on the minister’s side, saying he doesn’t think his review application is “frivolous”.
The EFF has joined Mkhwebane’s defence.
Vincent Maleka for the EFF said it was a possibility that the president would never get to the point where he disciplines Gordhan.
“He does not intend to fulfil the remedial action. He intends to defer it until the review of the remedial action is finalised. The deferment will weaken the office of the Public Protector,” Maleka said.