Gordhan could face probe into his role in SAA takeover deal

Parliament’s public enterprises portfolio committee has obtained legal opinion to investigate Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan for “serious allegations of misconduct” ‑ a move that could tarnish his reputation.

The legal opinion dated March 3, was issued by parliamentary chief legal adviser advocate Zuraya Adhikarie to committee chairperson Khayalethu Magaxa .

The opinion, which Sunday World has seen, recommends that Gordhan should appear before the committee to answer questions in connection with the controversial deal to sell national carrier SAA to Takatso Consortium.

Gordhan announced in 2021 that Takatso Consortium would take SAA by acquiring 51% of the state entity for R51, with the government retaining a 49% minority stake.

The deal sent shockwaves across the country, with critics describing the transaction as the “the dispossession of SAA assets”.

In the opinion letter, Adhikarie said Gordhan’s conduct should be probed.

She said Kgathatso Tlhakudi, the suspended director-general of public enterprises, had on October 27 last year, submitted a disclosure to President Cyril Ramaphosa and parliament Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act (PDA) against Gordhan regarding the Takatso deal.

“In essence, Mr Tlhakudi makes allegations of improper and illegal conduct by the minister, in that, the minister orchestrated the disposal of SAA in order to ‘benefit a few privileged individuals who were favoured by the minister in an irregular manner’.

“Mr Tlhakudi also makes reference to charges of misconduct that have been laid against him and suggests that the said charges ‘are simply a witch-hunt which have absurdly gone wrong, and I seek your intervention and also investigation of the issues I am raising.’

“In a subsequent submission, dated 29 October 2022, Mr Tlhakudi tendered a supplementary disclosure in which he provides further information on his experiences and concerns about SAA and the conduct of the minister,” reads the opinion.

Adhikarie said EFF chief whip and deputy president Floyd Shivambu had also written to Mapisa-Nqakula on October 31 last year, alleging the disclosure by Tlhakudi pointed to the conduct of Gordhan that was in violation of the constitution and the oath of office.

She said Shivambu stated that parliament must hold an inquiry into Gordhan’s conduct.

On November 20, Mapisa-Nqakula addressed correspondence to Magaxa in which she mentioned that it would be appropriate for her to refer Tlhakudi’s disclosure and Shivambu’s letter to the committee as the structure to which Gordhan accounts.

These developments, Adhikarie said, had prompted the chairperson to seek a legal opinion.

She surmised “there exists no impediment to the committee pursuing an investigation into Mr Tlhakudi’s submission or disclosure, in the performance of its oversight functions.

“In view of the foregoing, we are of the view that Mr Tlhakudi’s submission deals with a matter of national importance and the committee cannot merely ignore it.

“Moreover, it is no ordinary submission as it is a disclosure made in terms of the PDA and, for that reason, it imposes legal obligations on the committee to deal with it in terms of the prescribed time frames. There is no rule that says that parliament may not enquire into and report on a matter merely because it also happens to be before the executive,” said Adhikarie.

Last year, Tlhakudi was placed on precautionary suspension, allegedy over his conduct in the appointment of a security manager in the department.

During his suspension, he alleged that the SAA deal reeked of corruption, prompting Gordhan to threaten to sue him after Tlhakudi claimed he was wilfully excluded in the SAA sale deal.

Last October, Tlhakudi told the Labour Court in Johannesburg that Gordhan’s handling of the SAA sale seemed to make it his “pension benefit”. He said the deal would benefit a few privileged individuals who Gordhan had favoured and handpicked in an irregular and unlawful manner.

Tlhakudi, however, lost his case for unlawful and unconstitutional suspension. Gordhan said in a statement after the ruling that he “views the unsubstantiated allegations in a serious light and refutes them with the contempt it deserves”, and he reserved his rights.

Gordhan had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to print.

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