The office of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said the judgement by the North Gauteng High Court was disappointing as she was expecting the court to speak strongly against Pravin Gordhan. File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - The office of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said Monday's judgement by the North Gauteng High Court was disappointing as she was expecting the court to speak strongly against the Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan. 

This is after the court granted Gordhan an interdict to halt the remedial action laid out by Mkhwebane in the South African Revenue Service (SARS) so-called "rogue unit" report against him. 

Gordhan had lodged an urgent application to suspend and interdict the remedial orders by the Public Protector on her so-called rogue unit, citing "improper motives" on her part. 

Mkhwebane had found that the establishment of the unit was unlawful and that Gordhan, who was SARS commissioner at the time, had violated the Constitution.

Shortly after the judgement, Oupa Segalwe, acting spokesperson of the Public Protector, said: "We felt that the words of the Minister would impair the dignity of the office of the Public Protector...we are disappointed that this court found that the kind of language in the Minister's application was irrelevant for this purpose, we disagree with that, we think it was relevant."

During arguments, Mkhwebane's legal representative Thabani Masuku blasted Gordhan's application, saying his use of language was disrespectful and undermining of the Public Protector's office and his application should not be considered.

Segalwe reiterated Masuku's arguments, saying they were hoping that the court would dismiss Gordhan's application after he had labelled the Public Protector incompetent. 

Judge Sulet Potterill said the Public Protector was not supposed to entertain the Gordhan matter as it dates to around a decade ago. The Public Protector Act permits for investigations into matters less than two years old unless special circumstances exist.

Potterill ruled that Gordhan has a prima facie right to request the interdict against the remedial action.

She said that contrary to submissions by Mkhwebane's counsel, suspending her remedial action would not weaken the public protector's office. 

The judge also said that Gordhan had a prima facie case to review Mkhwebane's report and that "much of the orders are vague, contradictory and nonsensical". 

She found that there was a clear case to warrant judicial interference.

However, Poterill said that the court would not rule on allegations of bias against the public protector or her fitness to hold office.
 
While the Economic Freedom Fighters submitted to the court that the matter did not warrant a judicial hearing, Potterill ruled that Gordhan was within his rights to seek legal recourse.  

President Cyril Ramaphosa had submitted it would be inappropriate to take action against Gordhan within 30 days as stipulated in the Public Protector's remedial action in light of a pending judicial review against her report.

African News Agency (ANA)