Pravin Gordhan

Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan.
Photo: Flickr

Mkhwebane vs Gordhan: The legal battle continues

A report by Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that Pravin Gordhan had acted unlawfully when he granted Ivan Pillay, an early retirement payout in 2010

Pravin Gordhan

Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan.
Photo: Flickr

The face-off between Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane and the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan got underway at the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday, 30 September 2020.

The matter is in relation to the early retirement payout of Ivan Pillay, the former South African Revenue Service’s (Sars) deputy commissioner, as early as 2010. Gordhan was still the minister of finance at the time.

Advocate Wim Trengrove, the minister’s legal counsel in the matter, told the court Gordhan had followed due process in granting the early retirement.

He said the minister consulted a number of experts who advised that Pillay’s package was above board.

“It was entirely lawful and he was not guilty of any errors of law,” Trengrove said.

In 2019, a report by Mkhwebane found that Gordhan was guilty of improper conduct.

“We investigated the application of early retirement and payment of over R1 million which was levied on Mr Pillay’s benefits by the government pension fund that would allow him to enjoy full pension benefits as though he would have retired at a statutory age,” she said at the time.

Mkhwebane said Pillay was not entitled to the early retirement will full benefits.

“Having considered the evidence uncovered during the investigation, regarding whether Gordhan irregularly approved an early retirement of Pillay with full pension benefits and his subsequent retention at Sars, that allegation is substantiated.”

Gordhan: ‘I’m under attack from political opponents’

Gordhan however did not take the matter lying down and sought to have it interdicted – and was successful. He now wants the report to be set aside and has accused her of trying to settle political scores by releasing the scathing report.

“I believe that my political opponents, and those who are fighting back against the work underway to restore the integrity and stability of state institutions, good governance and to continue the eradication of corruption, wish to use the report to attack me and undermine my integrity,” he said.

Just a day before the matter was set to go to court, Mkhwebane fired a salvo of her own at Gordhan, saying:

“The minister claimed in court papers – without any basis – that the Public Protector was part of state capture and corruption and that her report was released for political reasons to prevent the minister from appointment to Cabinet.”

“Contempt of the Public Protector is similar to contempt of court. To fully appreciate the seriousness of the minister’s conduct in this regard, one must imagine a situation where a minister accuses a sitting judge of corruption and being motivated by politics.”