Minister of Enterprises,Pravin Gordhan. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Minister of Enterprises,Pravin Gordhan. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan has been served with a second subpoena by the Public Protector in relation to her investigation into the SA Revenue Service's (Sars') so-called rogue unit. 

Gordhan appeared before public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane for the first time in November. 

This was in relation to the early pension payout to former 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 acted on it only in February 2018.

The second subpoena served on Gordhan is in relation to a complaint lodged by EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu about the "rogue unit". 

"The same  allegations have been investigated repeatedly by various institutions — including the office of the Public Protector in 2014 — and no conclusive evidence could be found of any illegality by Sars or minister Gordhan," the minister's spokesman, Adrian Lackay, said.

"The latest subpoena was leaked to the media while we were in the process of consulting counsel to determine the most appropriate legal response to what clearly amounts to persistent harassment of minister Gordhan and a flagrant abuse of office." 

Allegations of the rogue unit emerged in 2014 and implicated senior officials such as then acting commissioner Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg, as well as head of strategic planning Peter Richer.

In 2014, a report by a panel headed by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane found there was prima facie evidence that the unit was unlawful. Following this, an advisory committee,  headed by retired judge Frank Kroon, was appointed to review the unit. The committee also found that the unit was illegally established.

However, at the time it emerged the advisory panel had simply rubber-stamped the findings of the Sikhakhane panel, despite the findings being contested by those implicated.

In 2018, however, retired judge Robert Nugent, found that the unit was not unlawfully established. 

Lackay said this was another example of the "fightback campaign to disrupt efforts to uncover and prosecute instance of malfeasance and corruption in various entities of government". 

Since his appointment as public enterprise minister, Gordhan has been under siege facing an onslaught from allies of former president Jacob Zuma. These have since been , 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.

Lackay called on the public to "connect the dots" about an effort to distract public attention from attempts to clean up governance in the country. 

quintalg@businesslive.co.za