Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: AFP PHOTO
Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: AFP PHOTO

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has accused state security minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba of interfering with the functioning of her office and has laid criminal charges against her.  

This was after Letsatsi-Duba failed to hand over a declassified document to Mkhwebane, which was needed in connection with her investigation into the alleged violation of the executive members ethics code by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, the public protector said on Wednesday.

The charges were laid at the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria on March 13. 

“It is my respectful view that the minister’s failure to avail the declassified report as subpoenaed amounts to contempt of the public protector and interference with the functioning of my office, and is therefore an offence,” Mkhwebane said.

Letsatsi-Duba was appointed state security minister in February 2018, after President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to office after the resignation of Jacob Zuma.

The state security ministry could not be immediately reached for comment. 

At the heart of Mkhwebane’s investigation into Gordhan is the early pension payout to former SA Revenue Services (Sars) senior official Ivan Pillay during Gordhan's first stint as finance minister. Oupa Magashula was Sars commissioner at the time. 

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) withdrew charges linked to the pension payout against Gordhan, Magashula and Pillay in October 2016. Mkhwebane received a complaint about the matter in November 2016 and only acted on it in February 2018.

In November 2018, Mkhwebane, amid mounting allegations of a witch hunt, moved to allay concerns about her probe of Gordhan, saying she was still deciding whether or not to proceed with it.

At the time, Gordhan was facing an onslaught from allies of former president Jacob Zuma, who had been joined by the EFF in taking on the former finance minister, in a move reminiscent of the 27 questions he was sent by the Hawks on the eve of delivering the 2016 budget.

On Wednesday, Mkhwebane stated that the Public Protector Act gave her the power to direct anyone to submit an affidavit or appear before her to give evidence or produce any document, which has a bearing on a matter under investigation. 

She said section 11 of the act provided that any person who, without just cause, refused or failed to comply with a request from her office was guilty of an offence. According to the act, any person convicted of such an offence would have to pay a fine not exceeding R40,000 or go to prison for a period not exceeding a year, or both. 

“The constitution makes it clear that no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of independent constitutional institutions such as my office. The Constitutional Court has clarified this further, explaining that, in doing my work, I am not to be inhibited, undermined or sabotaged and that my powers are not supposed to bow down to anybody,"  Mkhwebane said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za