Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane took to video streaming service website YouTube on Monday to announce that she would be serving Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan with a Section 7(9) notice in terms of the Public Protector Act. 

This section of the Act says: “If it appears to the Public Protector during an investigation that any person is implicated, and that such implication may be to the detriment of that person or that an adverse finding may result, the Public Protector shall afford such a person an opportunity to respond.”

Mkhwebane gave Gordhan 10 days to respond.

In May, the Public Protector found Gordhan guilty of “improper conduct” over his approval of then-deputy SA Revenue Services Commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement and payout.

In the video – pinned to the top of her Twitter feed – Mkhwebane listed a number of additional unresolved complaints, saying there would still be “a number of interactions” in future between her office and Gordhan. “We will still go back to him and request information.” 

An investigation of  tender irregularity relating to SARS’ purchase of IT company Interfront was underway, she said. Other complaints related to procurement, allegations that Gordhan lied in Parliament about meetings with the Guptas, and the Integrated Financial Management System at Treasury under Gordhan. 

‘I don’t ask people to complain’ 

Gordhan was not being harassed or targeted, she maintained. “It needs to be clear to South Africans that I receive complaints. I don’t go around and ask people to complain. When I receive the complaints, I would have to approach the person complained against and receive their side of the story,” she said.

“I know that there will be allegations that we are persecuting Minister Gordhan, but I am doing my work,” she added.

After the Public Protector’s report was issued in May, Gordhan took the matter on review, asking the court to set aside both her decision to investigate and the report as “unconstitutional, unlawful, irrational and invalid”, and seeking a punitive costs order against Mkhwebane. He described her findings as “totally wrong both in fact and in law”.

There were also calls for Mkhwebane to resign, with critics questioning the timing of the report, which came shortly before the appointment of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet.

Referring to the report, Mkhwebane said there had been a “serious attack” on the office of the Public Protector in its wake. 

“I am ready to receive all the backlash,” she said. 

Asked if a Section 7(9) notice was an unusual or exceptional step, Lawson Naidoo of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution told Fin24 it could be considered procedural during ongoing investigations. 

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