South African Minister Pravin Gordhan Challenges Public Protector Report

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday challenged in court a ‘Rogue Unit’ report by the Public Protector (SA’s anti-corruption watchdog) that instructed President Cyril Ramaphosa to take unspecified disciplinary action against Gordhan.

Pravin Gordhan is sworn in as Minister of Public Enterprises in Cape Town, South Africa, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Gordhan launched an urgent application to set aside the Public Protector’s report, calling it “dishonest” and “reckless”.

Last week Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said that Gordhan should be punished for establishing an investigative unit while serving as tax commissioner for SARS (South African Revenue Service) because that was not his area of responsibility. (Gordhan was head of SARS for around a decade from 1999.)

Mkhwebane, who some suspect of being an ally of former President Jacob Zuma, gave President Ramaphosa 30 days to decide on appropriate disciplinary action.

Gordhan happens to be the current president’s key ally, and is popular with many South Africans who feel he is making constructive efforts to root out corruption in state enterprises and revive struggling state companies like Eskom.

However Gordhan’s political enemies – including Economic Freedom Fighter leader Julius Malema – appear to be growing, and have used Mkhwebane’s report to call for the minister’s removal.

Gordhan’s lawyers said in a statement:

The report ignores facts and their significance to reach its findings regarding the establishment of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) investigative unit.

The application by Min Gordhan seeks to review and set aside the report and have it declared unlawful, unconstitutional, irrational and invalid.

Supporters of Gordhan say the Public Protector’s investigations into the minister are politically motivated… which she denies. Mkhwebane made another finding against Gordhan this year that Gordhan also challenged.

Amidst swirling rumours claiming Gordhan is “degree-less and diploma-less”, the University of KwaZulu-Natal issued a statement on Monday confirming Gordhan graduated from the University in 1973 and received an Honorary Doctorate in 2003.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Jenni Baxter; Editing by Frances Kerry/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople)