Gordhan has 'bona fide' dispute against Mkhwebane: Ramaphosa

17 July 2019 - 18:55 By Qaanitah Hunter
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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan has a bona fide case against public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and has thrown his weight behind it.

In court papers filed in the North Gauteng High Court, Ramaphosa said he supports Gordhan’s review of a report which found that the minister had violated the executive ethics act and, as a result, the Constitution.

In the first of a litany of reports against Gordhan, Mkhwebane recommended Ramaphosa take disciplinary steps against him after she found he had unlawfully approved a pension payout for former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and then proceeded to rehire him part-time.

“It is clear from the founding affidavit that there is a bona fide justiciable dispute between minister Gordhan and the public protector over the legal validity of the public protector’s investigation and findings and the remedial action she has directed in her report,” Ramaphosa said in court papers.

He said Mkhwebane was incoherent and irrational in her recommendation that Ramaphosa must take action against Gordhan.

“The two directions are incoherent because it is not rational to direct me to submit within 30 days for the approval of the public protector, a plan detailing disciplinary action that I will be taking against minister Gordhan, and at the same time to demand that the disciplinary action be taken within the 30 day period,” Ramaphosa told the court.

Ramaphosa repeated in court what he told Mkhwebane in a letter, that he was unable to take disciplinary action against Gordhan because he did not employ him.

“I respectfully submit that it would be premature for me to attempt to take ‘appropriate disciplinary action” against minister Gordhan while the principle review application is still pending,” Ramaphosa said, adding that there is still a legal dispute over whether he has disciplinary powers.

In his application to the court, Gordhan, and other affected parties including Pillay, argued that Mkhwebane was mistaken in her conclusions and that she made factual errors as well as mistakes in legal interpretations.

This is the second application by Ramaphosa in relation to Mkhwebane this week.

On Monday, he filed urgent court papers against the public protector, asking the court to declare that he had complied with the remedial action ordered by Mkhwebane that he take action against Gordhan regarding the pension payout to Pillay.

In his affidavit, Ramaphosa argued that it was unfortunate that he had to bring the case to court — “in circumstances where I believe it is wholly unnecessary” and that the legal challenge was a “measure of last resort”.

He said it was not a controversial political matter but a legal one. 

“The president believes there has in fact been compliance to the extent necessary and appropriate (at this stage) with the public protector’s remedial action,” the papers read.

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