The legal team for Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has welcomed the ruling by the High Court in Pretoria, saying it vindicates their client.
A full bench set aside a report by Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, which found that in 2007, Gordhan – who was the Commissioner at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) at the time – acted unlawfully by overseeing the establishment of the unit.
The court has also ordered Mkhwebane to pay 15% of the costs.
Speaking to eNCA, Gordhan’s lawyer Tebogo Malatji said he hopes that the ruling puts an end to the narrative surrounding the establishment of the unit.
“The judgement was very emphatic in many respects so one would hope it puts an end to this sordid narrative, as the judges have put it, of the so-called rogue unit. It was an investigative unit lawfully established,” Malatji said.
He reiterated Gordhan’s assertion on the lawfulness of the unit’s formation.
“It’s a lawfully established unit and it has done incredibly good work and much of the judge’s concern, if you read through it (judgement), is the extent to which the office of the public protector ignored evidence that showed what good work was being done by that particular unit. To make sure that sufficient tax is collected for you and I and all South African citizens,” Malatji further said.
In scathing judgement, the court found that Mkhwebane’s claims were without any foundation.
“The finding of the Public Protector that Minister Gordhan mislead Parliament when he was unable to remember that a member of the Gupta family was present at the Ambani meeting is simply wrong. The Public Protector’s conclusion on the evidence in that the Code can be violated even inadvertently is based on an error of law,” the court said.
The ruling comes exactly a week after the minister appeared before the State Capture Inquiry and once again placed focus on the unit. Gordhan was being cross-examined advocate Dali Mpofu, on behalf of his client former South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner Tom Moyane on Monday, 30 November 2020.
Moyane and Gordhan have not enjoyed a rosy working relationship – with the former SARS Commissioner accusing the former finance minister of being racist and arrogant.