South Africa: Public Protector Hits Back At Sunday Times 'Rogue Unit' Report

Left: Economic Freedom Fighters logo: Right: Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has dismissed a Sunday Times report which claims that a major source in her report on Public Enterprise Minister, Pravin Gordhan was never a part of the of the South African Revenue Services (Sars) 'rogue unit'. She has labelled the article as "propaganda" which seeks to discredit her report.

"We won't lend credence to propaganda by commenting on desperate attempts to discredit our report. We don't have "star or key witnesses" but multiple sources of evidence, including but not limited to documentation, video and audio recordings, and oral testimony shared under oath," she tweeted on Sunday.

The Sunday Times spoke to Keletso Bizoski Manyike, who is listed in Mkhwebane's report as a former Sars 'specialist agent'. Manyike told the publication he was never a member of the rogue unit but worked as a law interpreter in the legal administration and policy division at Sars and later in debt collection.

Manyike clarified that he had submitted a complaint to the Public Protector's office during Advocate Thuli Madonsela's term in 2014 when he was demoted at Sars.

He told the Sunday Times that his complaint included a 2010 'dossier' that was allegedly compiled by disgraced former Sars official Michael Peega, who made claims about the Sars 'rogue unit', News24 earlier reported.

He was later directed to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, where he lost the case. He resigned soon after and is currently unemployed.

No contact

The Sunday Times reported that Mkhwebane never contacted Manyike to interview him about dossier. He said the only time that the Public Protector's office called him was to ask if he had Peega's contacts, which he said he did not.

The Public Protector however disputed this on Sunday, tweeting that she had met with Manyike on two occasions.

"And we did meet with Mr. Manyike on two occasions. Further, facts of law breaking speak for themselves, are incontrovertible and stand there unshakeable. Lastly, our reports are reviewed only in court, not in newspaper," she further tweeted.

Mkhwebane found in her report that Gordhan was guilty of maladministration and violating the prescripts of the National Strategic Intelligence Act, as well as the Constitution, for the establishment of an intelligence unit at the Sars in 2007, according to News24.

Misleading

The EFF also hit out at the Sunday Times on Sunday, accusing it of deliberately misleading its readers, by stating that the source of the whole report is one individual.

"The Sunday Times must decide if it wants to be a Newspaper, or Newsletter of the Rogue Unit. It's direction under Tiso Black Star, and evidently under the new owners, is completely factional and unethical. News platforms must always tell the truth, and should not be used as tools to shield political principals," EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.

Ndlozi said the the Public Protector's remedial actions are binding, unless set aside by a court of law.

Meanwhile the Coucil for the Advancement of the Constitution (Casac) called on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise to take steps to act in accordance with section 194 of the Constitution in light of the ongoing saga.

"The office of the Public Protector is being abused as part of a political campaign whose real target is the anti-corruption reform efforts of President Ramaphosa's administration. In our view that any semblance of possible abuse of the office of the PP should be urgently investigated," Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said in a statement on Sunday.

'Institute proceedings'

Lawson said ultimately there is only one body with the power to investigate Mkhwebane.

"We call upon Parliament to immediately institute proceedings under section 194 of the Constitution for the removal of Adv Mkhwebane from office," he added.

Naidoo said the courts have found that Mkhwebane acted in an irrational, and therefore unconstitutional, manner on a number of recent occasions. He mentioned the ABSA matter where the court found that she had exceeded her powers and criticized her failure to explain her actions adequately.

Naidoo said in the SA Reserve Bank case, the court pronounced on her 'superficial reasoning and erroneous findings' and found that she had breached the separation of powers by usurping the authority of Parliament.

He further said that the court ruled in the The Vrede Dairy Project case that her report 'points either to ineptitude or gross negligence in the execution of her duties'.

Source: News24

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