POLITICAL WEEK AHEAD: Public protector’s reports to lead the news
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her controversial reports will be at the centre of the news this week.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced that he would take urgent court action to contest the findings of Mkhwebane’s report, released on Friday. Mkhwebane found Ramaphosa had deliberately misled parliament about a R500,000 donation from Gavin Watson, CEO of the corruption-accused Bosasa group, now known as African Global Operations. She also found that there was prima facie evidence of money laundering.
On Monday the Constitutional Court will rule on whether Mkhwebane should be held personally liable for some of the costs, on a punitive scale, for her handling of the investigation into the Absa/Bankorp matter. Her liability for the costs was ordered by the Pretoria high court in February last year.
Also on Monday the Zondo commission will hear testimony on the Estina dairy farm in Vrede, Free State — a matter that involved the siphoning off of more than R200m in taxpayers’ money meant for emerging farmers. Some of this money was allegedly used to pay for the luxurious Gupta wedding at Sun City in 2013. Mkhwebane’s report on Estina was found by the North Gauteng High Court to be unconstitutional and invalid.
On Tuesday the Pretoria high court will hear the urgent application by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan to have the remedial action demanded by Mkhwebane in her report on the SA Revenue Service (Sars) “rogue unit” put on hold pending a court review of the report, which Gordhan wants to have overturned.
Mkhwebane found that the unit, which was established by Gordhan when he was Sars commissioner, was illegal and set up without a mandate. The remedial action she demanded was that the matter be referred to parliament’s ethics committee within 14 days of the release of her report and that Ramaphosa take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan within 30 days.
Judgment on the matter is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday, as the 14-day period will lapse on Thursday. Mkhwebane is opposing Gordhan’s application on the grounds that an interim interdict against her remedial action should only be granted in exceptional circumstances, which she argues Gordhan has not demonstrated. Gordhan said in his court papers that he would suffer irreparable harm if Mkhwebane’s report stood unchallenged and he was disciplined.
The work of parliament’s committees will continue this week, and the National Assembly on Tuesday will debate the Appropriations Bill, which implements the budget tabled by finance minister Tito Mboweni in February. It allocates funds to the various government departments. The passage of the bill was delayed this year because of the general election in May.
On Thursday Deputy President David Mabuza will be in the National Assembly to answer MPs’ questions. They will cover a range of topics, including investment in the township economy; municipal hot-spots; any proposed legislation for the establishment of intelligence units; the performance of public employment programmes in alleviating poverty; and government assistance to drought-stricken farmers.
Also on Thursday the National Council of Provinces will debate the budget votes of the department of human settlements, water & sanitation.
On Wednesday, there will be four by-elections in DA-held wards in Johannesburg, the outcome of which will be crucial in determining the balance of power in the metro.