Johannesburg - Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane has warned that President Cyril Ramaphosa should not be allowed to escape his duties as head of State.
Mkhwebane yet again put up a fight in court on Thursday, as she continues to insist that the president take disciplinary action against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
"... The president is and has been continually in breach of his duty to implement remedial action. He does not approach this court with clean hands. This is an ongoing and continuous violation with every day and hour that passes, rendering the country in a state of lawlessness.”
Mkhwebane’s remarks were part of her application in the North Gauteng High Court as she seeks to compel Ramaphosa to comply with her recommendations, and fully effect them.
She will, however, have to wait another week to hear if the court rules in her favour, and does not delay the implementation of her remedial actions or reject them, which could throw her office into a further state of disarray.
Judge Letty Molopa on Thursday reserved judgment in the application filed by Ramaphosa this week, in which he asks not to be rushed by Mkhwebane in taking action against Gordhan.
The president filed his papers shortly after North Gauteng High Court Judge Sulet Potterill on Monday granted Gordhan an interim interdict against Mkhwebane – effectively stopping her from enforcing the recommendations in her May 24 report.
Ramaphosa said Gordhan had taken Mkhwebane’s report on the so-called Sars rogue unit on judicial review. In his submissions, the president said he had considered Gordhan’s application to take the report on judicial review.
His counsel Hamilton Maenetje said his client was of the view that Gordhan’s case was not a frivolous matter, adding that the president also believed his application, therefore, was not based on politics but rather focuses on legal matters.
In one of her remedial actions, Mkhwebane recommended that Gordhan face the music over allegations of maladministration and impropriety after he is said to have approved the early retirement of former Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay and granting him full benefits, only for Sars to retain him afterwards.
Mkhwebane gave Ramaphosa 30 days after the issuing of her report to submit an implementation plan on how he would discipline Gordhan for violating the executive ethics code. But in his papers, Ramphosa said he had complied with Mkhwebane’s recommendation through a letter he penned to her in June.
In the letter, Rampahosa said while he noted the public protector’s findings and the remedial actions, he thought it best to wait until Gordhan’s review had been wrapped up.
But Mkwebane hit back, saying the public protector’s office had the power to determine the appropriate remedy and prescribe the manner of its implementation. She also emphasised that her remedial actions were binding. Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa had failed to present her with an effective implementation plan and contended that the president should not be allowed to escape his constitutional obligations by being allowed to suspend instituting her remedial actions.
Dali Mpofu, representing Mkhwebane, trashed Maenetje’s arguments, saying they made a mockery of the courts. Mpofu said it had become fashionable for people to speak about punitive cost orders, and insult the public protector.
“This case is devoid of any merit whatsoever. There is no chance that this kind of application could succeed on its terms,” he said. Mpofu was also scathing on some respondents saying they simply wanted to jump on the bandwagon. “Parties just rock up, and the public protector must be insulted…”
Mpofu came down hard on Ramaphosa, saying by not taking action against Gordhan the president was holding the country to ransom. “The whole country must be held to ransom for four or five years. We know that in five years’ time when Mr Gordhan and President Ramaphosa are out of office…”
He asked if it was too challenging for Gordhan to drive to Ramaphosa’s office and for the president to say “don’t do that again”. But in support of Ramphosa’s bid, Gordhan said there was no reason for Mkhwebane to demand immediate implementation of her remedial actions or impose a deadline on them.