"The SA Communist Party [SACP] must choose if they want us or if they want Pravin Gordhan."
This was the ultimatum Nehawu president Mzwandile Makwayiba gave to SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila at the union's policy conference on Wednesday.
It came shortly after Mapaila went on a 15-minute rant defending Gordhan against any investigation by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Makwayiba rose up to speak as Mapaila concluded his speech, cautioning the SACP against defending Gordhan, saying he had victimised Nehawu members.
During his speech, Mapaila accused Mkhwebane of using the Chapter Nine institution as an instrument of political factions. He called on her to refrain from being the "hired gun of the fight back agenda" and to remain respectful of her office, "so that its judgment can remain legitimate not just of the law".
Mapaila said the rogue unit within the intelligence cluster had a stranglehold on the Public Protector's office, adding that it had also infiltrated opposition parties and were responsible for factional wars within the ANC.
"Comrade Pravin was taken up by that office through the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority], which was also captured by the rogue elements. Shaun Abrahams withdrew the case against Comrade Pravin after they ostracized him. Any individual, even if we differ with him on ideology, when he is being victimized, we will come out as the SACP and defend them."
In October 2016, then-NPA head Shaun Abrahams withdrew a summons he initiated against then-finance minister Gordhan and former SARS officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay. This was over an investigation into a rogue unit at Sars while Gordhan was still its commissioner as well as his approval of early retirement benefits for Pillay.
Calls for Mkhwebane to be recalled have intensified after she released a report following Abrahams' withdrawal of the summons in 2016, saying Gordhan should not have approved Pillay's early retirement and his re-employment on a fixed-term contract.
Mapaila explained that the SACP were standing up to protect Gordhan because Mkhwebane was using her office to launch an offensive against him.
In her remedial finding, Mkhwebane said President Cyril Ramaphosa should take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan for violating the Constitution.Gordhan has taken the findings on review.
In another blow to the ruling party, Mkhwebane in a draft report last month found that Ramaphosa had "inadvertently" misled Parliament and had failed to declare the R500 000 donation to his 2017 ANC leadership campaign from former Bosasa chief executive officer Gavin Watson.
This has placed her at odds with the two powerful figures.
"The office of the Public Protector is being used to deligitimise individuals. Particularly those who fight back whom rogue elements in the intelligence don't agree with, so that finally there could be adverse ruling against them," Mapaila said.
He added that the cases Mkhwebane was investigating were moral cases and not criminal.