Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The so-called Sars rogue unit has come back to haunt Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has subpoenaed Gordhan after acting on a complaint against the South African Revenue Service by EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu.

Mkhwebane has given Gordhan until April 23 to submit evidence detailing his alleged establishment of an intelligence unit deemed to be in violation of the country’s intelligence code during his tenure as Sars commissioner in 2007.

In papers served on Gordhan on Monday, Mkhwebane charged that the so-called creation of the unit was confirmed by Sars investigator advocate Muzi Sikhakhane. 

“Sars violated section 209 of the Constitution, which confers the powers and authority to establish any intelligence service... Only the president, as head of the national executive, does so, only in terms of the national legislation,” the complaint said.

Shivambu’s complaint added that not only did Sars disregard the process of the country’s supreme law in relation to intelligence, but it irregularly procured intelligence equipment which the alleged intelligence unit utilised.

Among some of the claims made is that the Sars unit bugged the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate of Special Operations. It is also alleged that while he was finance minister, Gordhan had instructed Sars to pursue the tax affairs of EFF leader Julius Malema “without legal basis".

Other matters include the appointment of senior officials at Sars who lacked adequate qualifications and the awarding of a 12-year tender, now worth R8 billion, that is said to have led to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The litany of allegations against Gordhan fuel speculation over his recent standoff with EFF leaders.

Previously, Malema described Gordhan as “a dog of white monopoly capital” and also questioned the credentials of his daughter Anisha over the awarding of contracts at the National Treasury, suggesting that these were awarded to her owing to her family relations.

However, at the time, Gordhan retaliated, pressing a case of crimen injuria against Malema. Further, in the complaint sent to Mkhwebane, Shivambu alleges that Gordhan violated the executive code of conduct by deliberately misleading Parliament in failing to disclose that he had met with a member of the Gupta family since taking office.

Gordhan confirmed this in his testimony before the State Capture Commission. This is the second subpoena Mkhwebane has served on Gordhan. The two recently squared off over matters relating to the manner in which Mkhwebane’s office handled investigations.

On Thursday night, Mkhwebane’s office remained mum on the issue. Spokesperson Oupa Segalwe would not be drawn into divulging whether the Public Protector’s Office would make an announcement, only saying: “We are not going to comment on the matter.”

Meanwhile, Gordhan’s spokesperson Adrian Lackay confirmed that a second subpoena had been served on the minister by the Public Protector in relation to the so-called rogue investigative unit at Sars.

“The same set of allegations have been investigated repeatedly by various institutions – including the Office of the Public Protector in 2014 – and no conclusive evidence could be found of any illegality by Sars or Minister Gordhan.

“The latest subpoena was leaked to the media while we were in the process of consulting counsel to determine the most appropriate legal response to what clearly amounts to persistent harassment of Minister Gordhan and flagrant abuse of office.”

Lackay said this was another example of a fightback campaign to disrupt efforts to uncover and prosecute instances of malfeasance and corruption in various entities of government.

“We must once again call on the public to connect a new set of dots and get an appreciation for the determined efforts to distract public attention from the broad attempts to ensure clean governance in our country.” Reacting to the subpoena last night, Shivambu said the EFF fully supported Mkhwebane in her investigations. 

“When people do not co-operate you subpoena them. “Our hope now is that the Public Protector will conduct this probe in a proper and transparent manner,” Shivambu said.

Political Bureau