Malusi Gigaba. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Malusi Gigaba. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Malusi Gigaba’s future hangs in the balance after the public protector found that the embattled home affairs minister had violated the constitution and the executive ethics code by lying
in court.

Pressure is mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa to axe Gigaba, after advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane instructed him to take "appropriate disciplinary action" against the minister for also violating parliament’s code of ethics.

Mkhwebane’s findings are binding until they have been reviewed and set aside by a court. Asked on Wednesday what appropriate action would entail, the public protector said she could not prescribe to the president.

She started the investigation after a complaint by DA parliamentary chief whip John Steenhuisen, a sequel to the high court in Pretoria finding in December 2017 that Gigaba had told "untruths" under oath.

This was related to a dispute between Gigaba, in his capacity as home affairs minister, and the Oppenheimer family’s Fireblade Aviation over SA’s richest family’s plan to run a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport. The Oppenheimers said Gigaba had given permission for the terminal early in 2016, only to retract the decision days later.

Gigaba denied approving the terminal at all.

Mkhwebane herself has had run-ins with the courts, with the Pretoria high court ruling in February that she was not impartial and did not understand her job or the law. This related to her report, which was set aside, that Absa pay R1.125bn for Bankorp’s apartheid-era loan from the Reserve Bank.

Gigaba has also been under investigation for his role in granting citizenship to some members of the Gupta family, who are at the centre of state-capture allegations during Zuma’s presidency.

He may be called to testify at the Zondo commission, as he was public enterprises minister in charge of entities such as Eskom, Denel and Transnet when the Guptas allegedly benefited from billions in kickbacks and inflated contracts.

Ramaphosa now has 14 days to take action.

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete must within 14 days refer Gigaba’s violation to the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests. She has 30 days from publication of the report to provide an implementation plan on steps against Gigaba for breaching parliament’s code of ethical conduct.

Meanwhile, the DA has launched a court bid to compel Ramaphosa to fire Gigaba.

"Gigaba’s sacking will not rub out all his mistakes, but will finally bring to an end one of the most inglorious careers of any cabinet minister," Steenhuisen said. The DA encouraged Ramaphosa to put an end to Gigaba’s "scandal-prone and frequently dishonest tenure".

Trade union federation Cosatu has also called on the president to do the right thing and fire Gigaba. "He has become a liability and an embarrassment to both government and the ANC," Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.

Unisa political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said he did not believe Ramaphosa had many options other than to fire Gigaba, and said Gigaba was likely to be implicated in the Zondo commission. "We can say the downward spiral is gaining momentum. His political future is under severe strain," Fikeni said.

Home affairs department spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said Gigaba was studying the report and would advise on his next course of action.

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