EFF comes to Mkhwebane’s defence, set to join legal fight in Gordhan review application

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The EFF has instructed its lawyers to join in the legal defence of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane following widespread backlash over her report involving Pravin Gordhan, it said on Monday.

The EFF threw its weight behind the principle that the Public Protector’s reports must be taken on review in a court if there is disagreement over a finding made by it.

It also hit out at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, which is the latest organisation to join in on growing calls for Mkhwebane’s recall following her findings that Gordhan was guilty of “improper conduct” over his approval of then deputy SA Revenue Services Commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement and pay-out.

The foundation’s executive director, Neeshan Balton said Mkhwebane was acting in a manner that came across as being “irrational” and “driven by an agenda that is clearly not about protecting the interests of the public”. 

On Friday, Mkhwebane released her report, saying Gordhan should not have approved the early retirement with full pension benefits of Pillay in 2010 and his re-employment on a fixed term contract.

Gordhan, who was finance minister at the time has previously reiterated that Pillay’s retirement was “entirely above board”.

Mkhwebane in her remedial findings urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan for violating the Constitution.

“The timing of the announcement of her findings and subsequent hasty release of the report seems to suggest that it was made with only one purpose in mind, to try and influence the president’s choice of cabinet members,” said Balton.

Balton added that the foundation supports the call for Parliament and the president to review Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office and relieve Mkhwebane of her post as the Public Protector.

“Her repeated blunders are eroding public trust in a constitutional body that is meant to protect citizens against state maladministration,” said Balton.

The EFF said it rejects calls for Mkhwebane’s removal from office, “simply because she found against Pravin Gordhan”.

“We reject the calls as a direct attack on a Chapter 9 constitutional institution. They are also reactionary and steeped in the politics of personality cult as they portray Pravin Gordhan above the law and not subject to a Chapter 9 institution,” the EFF said.

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.

Gordhan has said that he will be taking Mkhwebane’s findings on review: “In light of the most recent judgment in relation to the Vrede Dairy Project, Minister Gordhan is of the view that the Public Protector has once again erred in her findings and proposed remedial action,” Gordhan’s spokesperson Adrian Lackay said.

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe did not answer directly when asked by Fin24  on Sunday what her response is to calls for her to be fired, simply saying: “If those found to have acted wrongly are aggrieved at the Public Protector’s findings and remedial action, they have the right to approach the courts for recourse.”

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