Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has lamented the attacks on her office, saying her “cardinal sin” has been her bravery including her finding on the Bankorp-CIEX report.
In June 2017, Mkhwebane ordered Absa to repay R1.125bn for a lifeboat provided to Bankorp by the Reserve Bank during the apartheid era.
Absa took up ownership of the Bankorp group of banks.
“It appears the cardinal sin was my bravery to touch the establishment by directing that R1.125bn lost to the people of South Africa in an illegal gift from the South African Reserve Bank to Bankorp Limited/Absa Bank be recovered,” Mkhwebane told a gathering of the SA Sheriff Society at Dullstroom in Mpumalanga on Friday evening.
The North Gauteng High Court set the report aside after the Reserve Bank and Absa challenged it. Mkhwebane was ordered to pay 15% of the central bank’s costs in her personal capacity.
The remainder was to be paid by her office, as Fin24 previously reported. She said the court prejudiced the people of South Africa by not dealing with the lost R1.125bn.
“To this day, no one talks about that and the fact that no less than two judges found the loan in question to have been unlawful. Where is justice?”
Mkhwebane lost the Supreme Court of Appeal against the personal costs order. She said since that case, the knives have been out for her, including malicious damage to her property and threat to her family.
Mkhwebane’s wide-ranging address also focused on the uneasy relationship between herself and the Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The Public Protector this year subpoenaed Gordhan to answer questions about the so-called rogue unit at the SA Revenue Service, in a move that he described as harassment.
She has also since found that Gordhan was guilty of “improper conduct” after he, in his capacity as Finance Minister at the time, approved then SARS deputy-commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement and payout. Pillay was then subsequently re-employed on a contractual basis.
Lawyers for Gordhan have filed a review application asking the North Gauteng High Court to set aside this report, with the minister, in an affidavit, accusing Mkhwebane of exhibiting “stunning incompetence, irrationality and negligence” in the performance of her duties.
“There is also the ridiculous claim that I am targeting Minister Gordhan and President Ramaphosa,” she said.”In the twelve months leading up to March 31, 2019, I had investigated 14 000 cases. Only two related to Minister Gordhan while one concerned the President.”
She added that there had been only one report against Gordhan and none against Ramaphosa. “How then am I targeting them?” she asked.
Mkhwebane and Gordhan have been involved in a war of words for months over investigations that she has launched into him.