‘I am ready for the backlash,’ says Busisiwe Mkhwebane as battle with Pravin Gordhan continues

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wants public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan to answer to allegations that he lied to parliament about meeting the controversial Gupta family.

Gordhan will also be expected to answer questions related to the operations of the so-called rogue unit at the SA Revenue Services (Sars) during his tenure as commissioner there.

And Mkhwebane says she is ready for the backlash from people who accuse her of persecuting Gordhan.

“I am ready to receive all the backlash. I am doing the work, I am not targeting or harassing any ministers, specifically minister Gordhan,” said Mkhwebane in a video message posted on YouTube.

Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane to serve Minister Pravin Gordhan with a notice in terms of Section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act. This relates to her investigation into alleged breach of the Executive Members’ Ethics Code and issues around the “rogue unit”.
In the latest tussle between the two, Mkhwebane announced on Monday that she was going to serve Gordhan with a Section 7 [9] notice following a complaint by the Economic Freedom Fighters who wanted her to investigate a possible violation of the executive ethics code by Gordhan. A section 7 [9] notice is issued in terms of section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act to afford a party implicated during a public protector investigation, the opportunity to respond to allegations or accusations against him or her.

She said part of the section 7 [9] notice were issues relating to the operations of the Sars rogue unit.

“And I know that one will be faced with a lot of questions and there will be allegations that I am also still persecuting minister Gordhan but I am doing my work. I understand when it comes to the issue of the rogue unit, people have lost lives, people have been tainted and I think that is still going to happen, I am doing my work,” she added.

In the clip, Mkhwebane also dismissed allegations that she was harassing Gordhan saying she was merely doing her work and her approach was no different to when investigating other ministers or other people.

This comes as pundits call for Gordhan’s head following Mkhwebane’s findings against him 11 days ago. There is also a large chorus of critics calling for Mkhwebane’s removal from office claiming she is incompetent.

In her video, Mkhwebane said there were more complaints against Gordhan and that “we will still go back to him and request information”. The complaints included alleged involvement in irregular tender processes around a contract awarded to a company called BBND and another tender irregularity relating to Sars’ purchase of IT company Interfront. Another complaint related to the Integrated Financial Management System at Treasury under Gordhan’s watch.

“It needs to be clear to South Africans that I receive complaints. I don’t go around asking people to complain. Therefore when I receive the complaint, I would have to approach the person who’s complained against, request their side of the story.

“We all know the EFF’s complaint was dealing with the rogue unit, the processes which had been followed, the recruitment, the procurement of the equipment and their operations,” she said, adding that another complaint related to the Executive Members’ Ethics Act, with the EFF alleging Gordhan lied in parliament about his meetings with the Guptas.

“Therefore, I’m coming forward to say there is still going to be a number of interactions which we will have with minister Gordhan,” said Mkhwebane.

Mkhwebane noted that there was a “serious attack” on the person of the public protector following the last report her office issued about Gordhan 11 days ago.

The EFF lodged the complaint against Gordhan in November, claiming that in response to a parliamentary question, Gordhan had said he had never met the controversial Gupta family in their Saxonwold home, but had encountered members of the family at public events.

The EFF alleged that Gordhan deliberately did not disclose a meeting held with Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani and Ajay Gupta to discuss investment opportunities in MTN.

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