Subpoena skirmish: Gordhan's lawyer slams Mkhwebane's 'deceptive' claim

War of words between public enterprises minister and public protector escalates

11 November 2018 - 08:26 By Ranjeni Munusamy
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Pravin Gordhan’s lawyer has dismissed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s claim that she was compelled to subpoena him because he had not responded to her as “simply deceptive, false and incorrect”.

The public enterprises minister’s attorney Tebogo Malatji said the public protector in fact responded to their correspondence saying she had no evidence implicating Gordhan in wrongdoing.

The public protector’s office tweeted on Friday that Mkhwebane wrote to Gordhan four times between February and July in connection with her investigation against him regarding former SA Revenue Service deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s retirement package.

“When the responses were not forthcoming, she issued a subpoena on 02 October 2018,” the tweet read.

Mkhwebane is investigating a complaint received from presidency staffer Lebogang Hoveka in November 2016 that Gordhan’s approval of the package amounted to maladministration, and dishonest and improper conduct.  

Malatji said Gordhan received a letter from Mkhwebane on February 5 informing him she was investigating the same allegations for which he was criminally charged in 2016. The charges later withdrawn.

“We wrote to the public protector on 16 February 2018, expressly stating that we require that we be provided the particulars and evidence of the alleged dishonesty and impropriety on the part of Minister Gordhan.

“To date, such evidence and particulars have not been provided, but for a letter from the Office of the public protector dated 28 February 2018, indicating that the Office was in the process of conducting a preliminary investigation... In the said letter, the public protector indicated that her office has no evidence implicating Minister Gordhan of any wrongdoing,” said Malatji.

He said investigators from the public protector’s office contacted his law firm on July 3 requesting that Gordhan respond to Mkhwebane’s initial letter.

The public protector indicated that her office has no evidence implicating Minister Gordhan of any wrongdoing.
Tebogo Malatji

“They did so despite the fact that no particulars had been provided as requested,” said Malatji. He said Gordhan was of the view that he could not respond to her for as long as the particulars they requested were outstanding.

“In the intervening period, the office of the public protector proceeded to issue a subpoena on 1 October 2018 for the minister to appear before her on 14 November 2018,” said Malatji.

Mkhwebane’s spokesman Oupa Segalwe confirmed the tweet was from her office. He said the public protector was compelled to subpoena Gordhan because she had not received a response to the allegations.

He said at the time the subpoena was issued, they were not aware that Gordhan was also scheduled to appear before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture next week.

Gordhan claimed in his statement to the state capture inquiry that the public protector’s investigation was part of the “misuse and abuse if public powers for suspicious objectives”.