Freedom Under Law (FUL) has hit out at Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, saying she is “attempt[ing] to reheat a long cold dish” in her recent findings against Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan.
At a media briefing on Friday, Mkhwebane announced that Gordhan, when he was minister of finance in 2010, should not have approved the early retirement with full benefits and subsequent re-employment of Ivan Pillay, the then-deputy commissioner of the SA Revenue Service.
The Public Protector said President Cyril Ramaphosa must take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan for violating the Constitution and must submit an implementation plan for the remedial action within 30 days.
Gordhan, Pillay and former SARS commissioner Oupa Magashula have all said they intend to challenge the ruling. All three have argued the matter was handled legally.
In a statement on Saturday, Freedom Under Law’s CEO Nicole Fritz said the group was “dismayed but not surprised” by the Public Protector’s ruling.
“The matters canvassed in the Public Protector’s report are the exact same matters as those which frame one of the most notorious episodes in the National Prosecuting Authority’s history – the decision to charge and then ultimately ignominiously withdraw charges against Gordhan, Pillay and former SARS Commissioner, Oupa Magashula,” she said.
“This attempt to reheat a long cold dish and serve it up to the public as evidence of wrongdoing is on its own alarming. But that the Public Protector releases her report a mere two days after receiving responses from the implicated parties – failing to meaningfully engage the responses – makes a mockery of the most basic tenets of justice.”
FUL is a non-profit group that seeks to promote democracy and the rule of law. It at times institutes or joins to “combat and correct institutional conduct in conflict with the rule of law,” according to its website. It has not said whether it intends to join the court challenges by Gordhan, Pillay or Magashula.
Mkhwebane, meanwhile, at the end of her 89-page report, noted that her findings are legally binding on Ramaphosa, unless a court orders otherwise.
The EFF has urged Ramaphosa not to reappoint Gordhan to his Cabinet in light of the findings, while trade union federation Cosatu said the president should set aside all Mkwebane’s reports until her competency and trustworthiness has been ascertained.
The DA, meanwhile, has written to the new Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, requesting the institution of removal proceedings against Mkhwebane.
Ramaphosa is expected to announced a slimmed down Cabinet after his inauguration, which is taking place on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.