Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has come out to bat for Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in a court application to intervene in Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s application to set aside Mkhwebane’s report on the so-called rogue unit.
The EFF has accused Gordhan of employing an “illegitimate shortcut” through the “constitutionally protected tenure of the Public Protector”. This is after the minister lodged papers to interdict the implementation of Mkhwebane’s report and to review the report itself and set it aside.
Malema describes Gordhan’s review application as an “unprecedented attack on the incumbent public protector”.
He argues in his application that the minister’s criticism was designed to “poison the climate in which the legal debate ought to take place”, or laying the foundation for her removal.
He goes to considerable lengths to explain why Mkhwebane’s finding that Gordhan misled Parliament regarding the meeting with the Gupta’s was deliberate and indicates that the finding on the “rogue unit” is a separate matter.
Malema says the unit did not have a “run of the mill” investigative function and it was of no use to point at “generic grants of authority in the tax laws”, rather it was an “extraordinary power and departure from the norm”.
“Remember, we’re talking about spying. If Parliament intended SARS to have such extraordinary powers, it would have said so… intelligence is not the same as revenue collection, intelligence is serious business,” he said. Malema argues that if intelligence had to be gathered, the task should have been assigned to national intelligence authorities.
Malema dismisses Gordhan’s argument that Mkhwebane is biased and has an ulterior motive, saying this allegation should only be made on the “clearest of evidence”, given its far-reaching consequences “especially in this context”. He says the allegation that Mkhwebane is pursuing Gordhan at the EFF’s behest is “speculative and spurious”. Turning to Gordhan’s comments in his papers on the EFF, Malema says the minister “all but invites” the court to make negative findings against the party.
Gordhan in his review application said the EFF had driven the campaign against him, repackaging allegations against him for its complaint to the public protector and that there was a political motive to its complaint.
“No awareness of the infirmity of or motive for the allegations against me by the EFF is shown by the Public Protector. Rather, she is unquestioning in her acceptance of them. This is a result of incompetence, bias or both,” he said.