Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said informing the public about her decisions was not a new practise as her predecessor Thuli Madonsela had also done so with regards to her investigation into late former Minister Sicelo Shiceka and her Nkandla report.

She was reacting to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan who this week accused her of victimising him through social media. He is seeking legal advice against her. 

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said the public protector used social media “merely” to update the public and complainants about her investigation on Gordhan.

“At the height of investigations into the alleged conduct of the late former Minister Sicelo Shiceka regarding his hotel stays at a huge cost to the taxpayer, the serving of a section 7(9) notice or a provisional report as we used to call such notices, a media statement was issued to that effect by the office.

“Similarly, an announcement was made about a provisional report regarding the Nkandla debacle. Just last week, the public protector informed the Business Day that an investigation involving former Minister Bathabile Dlamini was at section 7(9) notice phase,” said Segalwe.

Mkhwebane had earlier this week turned to Youtube to announce that she had served Gordhan with Section 7(9) notice with regard to her investigation on his alleged involvement with the “rogue unit” while he was Sars commissioner in 2007. 

When asked if it was now going to be a norm for Mkhwebane to use social media to communicate with the public about her investigations, Segalwe said “the public protector will use whatever method is expedient in the circumstances of each case to communicate with the public”.

“The advantage with social media is that it provides for an unmediated communication with the public. Sometimes our views are not properly represented in the media,” he said.

He said this would withstand court challenge as Gordhan had threatened to go to High Court to challenge her method of communication. 

He alleged that her previous letter in November to subpoena Gordhan with regard to his alleged approval of former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement fund payout was leaked and a “media onslaught on her ensued”. “This year, another subpoena relating to the 'Rogue Unit' matter leaked hours after it was served. 

“Copies of her correspondence with the minister were openly shared with the media by the minister’s attorney,” said Segalwe.

When asked to respond to Mkhwebane’s defence of social media usage, Gordhan's spokesperson Andrian Lackay said Mkhwebane had turned to Youtube even before formal papers were served on his boss. 

“Minister Gordhan is obtaining legal advice on the most appropriate response since it appears that a court of law is the only rational place to seek sufficient protection of one’s rights,” said Lackay. 

Political Bureau