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Mkhwebane's findings on Gordhan: How did we get here?

On Friday, Mkhwebane found that Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan violated the Constitution when he approved the establishment of the unit saying only the president had the constitutional mandate to form such a covert unit.

Public Protector advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: @PublicProtector/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings on the South African Revenue Service's (Sars) so-called rogue unit have added another spanner in the works regarding the conflicting probes into the unit.

On Friday, Mkhwebane found that Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan violated the Constitution when he approved the establishment of the unit, saying only the president had the constitutional mandate to form such a covert unit.

The unit was called the High Risk Investigations Unit, and was alleged to have carried out rogue operations, such as bugging the National Prosecuting Authority's offices. The unit was set up to investigate high-profile tax offenders.

Mkhwebane said Sars didn’t follow proper procurement processes when it procured equipment for the unit, and added that she even had evidence that the unit unlawfully intercepted communications in 2007.

It’s a complicated story characterised by probe after the probe, contradictions, and even withdrawals.

SO, LET’S START IN 2014:

A report by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane found that there was prima facie evidence that the unit was unlawful, so, a panel - headed by retired judge Frank Kroon - was established to look into the unit and it found the Sars division was established illegally.

But fast forward to 2018, Kroon admitted at the Nugent commission of inquiry into Sars that the panel he chaired was wrong when it said the rogue unit was unlawful.

That commission had since found the unit was legally established.

But the Public Protector said this finding by judge Nugent was not a finding by a constitutional body, and the retired judge didn’t conduct an investigation as she did.

THERE IS MORE:

The Sunday Times withdrew all the stories it published about the unit, admitting that it “got things wrong”.

Even embattled auditing firm KPMG withdrew its findings, recommendations and conclusions around its report on the unit, which was instrumental in endorsing the unit’s existence.

But, this new report by the public protector says it was illegally established and it unlawfully spied on people.