'Stunning incompetence, irrationality and negligence': Gordhan slams public protector
Pravin Gordhan believes the public protector's report accusing him of violating the constitution will be the next in a series of rulings to be overturned by court judgments “scathing of her comprehension of her constitutional role, grasp of the law and ability to act without fear, favour or prejudice”.
Gordhan's sentiments were contained in an affidavit submitted to the high court in Pretoria on Tuesday, in which he seeks to review and set aside Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report, which was released on Friday.
The report found that Gordhan had improperly approved the early pension payout for former SA Revenue Service (Sars) official Ivan Pillay. As part of her remedial action Mkhwebane instructed President Cyril Ramaphosa to take disciplinary action against Gordhan
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Gordhan noted that four of Mkhwebane’s reports had been overturned by court judgments, specifically related to her investigations into:
- the apartheid-era state bail-out of Absa;
- the role of the SA Reserve Bank;
- the Vrede dairy farm project; and
- former rural development and land reform minister Gugile Nkwinti.
According to Gordhan's affidavit: “All of these cases, of course, do not determine the outcome of this review application - though they are relevant, since I believe that they show an emerging and consistent pattern for the constitutional mandate of the office of the public protector by its current occupant and a stunning incompetence, irrationality and negligence on her part in the performance of her duties.”
Pillay’s early pension payout was made during Gordhan’s first stint as finance minister, when Oupa Magashula was the Sars commissioner.
When Mkhwebane released the report, she insisted it was not an attempt to play to the political gallery, given that Ramaphosa would be announcing his cabinet appointments soon.
“When you say, why the rush, it means the public protector must not issue reports; whereas I must do my work without fear or prejudice,” she said at the time.
But Gordhan believes the timing of the report was “suspicious”, “politically motivated” and enabled “a renewal of the ongoing political campaign against me by proponents of ‘state capture’ and defenders of corruption”.
“I say this because there was no reason for the unseemly haste with which the report was issued on Friday,” said Gordhan.
He also believes that Mkhwebane’s office overlooked his submissions to her office on May 22. “It was as if they were ‘going through the motions’ and intended to find against me and Messrs Pillay and Magashula from the outset," he claimed.
Gordhan said he consulted at least six experts before approving Pillay’s retirement, including Magashula and former treasury DDG Andrew Donaldson.
“There was not a single dissenting voice. I therefore had every reason to trust that I could lawfully and properly approve the request. I acted honestly and in good faith on the best available legal advice,” he said.