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No details divulged after Pravin Gordhan's meeting with Busisiwe Mkhwebane

14 November 2018 - 20:00 By NICO GOUS and MATTHEW SAVIDES
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan met with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane for about two hours on Wednesday.
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan met with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane for about two hours on Wednesday.
Image: Trevor Samson

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane met with public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan for at least two hours on Wednesday morning.

The night before the meeting, Mkhwebane’s office said it would not be commenting on the meeting – and Gordhan’s spokesman, Adrian Lackay, said on Wednesday that it would be “inappropriate” to talk about what had happened in the meeting.

Gordhan was subpoenaed by Mkhwebane last month. She is investigating a complaint by presidency staffer Lebogang Hoveka in November 2016 that Gordhan approving Ivan Pillay’s retirement package and later allowing him to be re-employed by the South African Revenue Service (Sars) in 2010 was irregular.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) dropped the criminal investigation and criminal charges in October 2017.

All Lackay was prepared to say was that it was Gordhan’s “view” that the 2016 complaint against him was “malicious” and that the minister, as head of treasury and as minister of finance in 2010, was “completely transparent” and  that he “consulted extensively" and  “engaged extensively across government to obtain legal advice” regarding Pillay’s retirement.

“Engagements with the public protector will continue,” he said via a text message.

Mkhwebane said on Monday her mandate was to investigate any alleged improper conduct, irrespective of whether a criminal case has been dropped or not. She said not all improper conduct or maladministration were criminal offences.

Mkhwebane said she was empowered by the law to conduct a preliminary investigation for the purpose of determining the merits of complaints, allegations or information.

“The investigation into the alleged conduct of minister Gordhan is therefore at a preliminary stage. Accordingly, the public protector is affording him an opportunity to respond to the allegations or the complaint.”

Mkhwebane said attorneys and advocates could give legal help to clients in meetings with the public protector.

“This means that attorneys or advocates cannot speak on behalf of the person appearing before the public protector.”

The public protector’s office tweeted on Friday that Mkhwebane wrote to Gordhan four times between February and July.

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

Gordhan’s attorney, Tebogo Malatji, dismissed Mkhwebane's claim that she was compelled to subpoena him because he had not responded to her as “simply deceptive, false and incorrect”.

He said the public protector had responded to their correspondence saying she had no evidence implicating Gordhan in wrongdoing.

“We wrote to the public protector on February 16 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."