Pravin Gordhan. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Pravin Gordhan. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Lawyers for public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan have argued that public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane appears to believe she is above the scrutiny of the courts.

This belief has driven her insistence that President Cyril Ramaphosa take action against the minister, despite him legally challenging the findings the public protector has made against him.

Advocate Michelle le Roux said it was crucial that Ramaphosa be granted a stay of the implementation of the action he was ordered to take against Gordhan pending the outcome of his legal challenge to the public protector’s report on the early retirement granted to former Sars commissioner Ivan Pillay.

“The president and Gordhan can then be spared the impact of what could be a wrong decision,” Le Roux argued.

Le Roux also hit back at what she described as the “emotive arguments” advanced by Mkhwebane and the EFF that Ramaphosa had “taken sides” with Gordhan, by seeking a stay of the Pillay remedial action.

“All these emotive arguments flowed from a common mistake: to think that only minister Gordhan could approach this court,” she said, adding that it was “appropriate” and “perfectly permissible” that the president has standing in this case because “he’s the one who needs to do something”.

She further stated that it had been Mkhwebane who had urged Ramaphosa to go to court to stay the implementation of the remedial action she ordered against Gordhan, in which she ordered him to “take appropriate disciplinary action” against the minister. Mkhwebane did not specify a time frame in which he needed to do so.

Le Roux questioned why Mkhwebane was now opposing the court action she had asked the president to take.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, arguing for Mkhwebane, said that Ramaphosa’s application was “meritless” and she was perfectly entitled to oppose it. He said Ramaphosa was clearly “in contempt” of the public protector’s remedial action in the Pillay report.

Ramaphosa’s lawyers insist that he has not failed to comply with Mkhwebane’s orders, and say it is “unreasonable” for Mkhwebane to claim that he did.

Mpofu completely rejected the president’s argument that he had complied with Mkhwebane’s directives by providing her with an implementation plan about the action he would take, in which he stressed that he would await the outcome of Gordhan’s legal action before taking any such action.

“How on earth can your ladyship say the remedial action has been complied with?” Mpofu asked Judge Lettie Molopa-Sethosa.