We welcome the fact that the Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, has finally announced that he will institute review proceedings to set aside the findings, remedial action and report issued by the Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane, following her investigation into the decades-old ABSA/Bankkorp Limited “lifeboat” loan by the South African Reserve Bank.
The fact is that for more than two weeks the Minister has dithered and zigzagged his way around the fallout from the remedial action and failed to take any concrete action to protect the constitutional mandate and independence of the South African Reserve Bank. This was a monumental dereliction of duty and left the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Lesetja Kganyago, dangling in the fight to save the independence of the South African Reserve Bank.
The DA welcomes Parliament’s decision to take on review the Ciex report released by the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, on Monday.
The ‘remedial actions’ listed by Mkhwebane, which included amending parts of the Constitution in respect of the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), constitute a significant overreach of the Public Protector’s Constitutional mandate – only the National Assembly has the power to make changes to the Constitution.
The Public Protector’s remedial action has had a negative effect on the value of our currency and ratings agencies have expressed their deep concern over the proposed erosion of the independence of the SARB.
The DA has repeatedly expressed concern over Mkhwebane’s suitability for the position and her actions increasingly show that our concern was correct.
We thus support this vital step taken by Parliament and will continue to investigate avenues to ensure that the Public Protector fulfils her mandate and does not overreach to the detriment of South Africa.
The DA expresses serious disquiet at the ‘remedial action’ proposed by the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in which she instructed Parliament’s Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development to amend the Constitution in relation to the powers of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
Clearly, her recommendation goes beyond what she is legally empowered to do and is indicative of her long-term plan to render the Public Protectors office ineffective.
The effect of the ‘remedial action’ would be to instruct the Justice committee to promote the action, which in itself appears sinister and is a cause for great concern.
The DA will therefore seek a meeting with the Head of the Parliamentary Legal Services, requesting a confirmation that a Public Protector instruction for Parliament to amend the Constitution is illegal and to determine if Parliament will be taking this action on review, given the grave constitutional implications.
The SARB have received a legal opinion confirming that the ‘remedial action’ is both outside of Mkhwebane’s powers and illegal and has indicated their intention of having the matter reviewed.
The DA will be watching this process carefully and are currently exploring all possible actions to address the apparent difficulties with the remedial action in its current form, least of which is the fact that the Public Protector reports to the Justice Committee and is therefore not constitutionally empowered to instruct it to do anything.
The remedial actions announced yesterday are very disturbing and they mean that the new Public Protector has either failed to understand her role and powers as Public Protector, or she simply is prepared to break the law to drive political agendas.
Mkhwebane’s remedial action to amend the Constitution also undermines and usurps Parliamentary powers.
The National Assembly is the only institution empowered to amend the Constitution – once it has attained a two-thirds majority from MPs. Mkhwebane’s recommendation is also, therefore, a threat to Parliament’s legislative power.
When Mkhwebane was put forward as a possible replacement for Adv. Thuli Madonsela, the DA strongly opposed her appointment as we were of the belief that she was not the best candidate. We did this because we believed South Africa deserved better.
The DA will continue to investigate this matter fully with a view to taking further action as we cannot stand by as another key institution is hollowed out for the benefit of a few and at the expense of South Africa’s future.
The South African Revenue Service Commissioner, Tom Moyane, potentially misled South Africans when he claimed that the revenue service reached its revised target of R1.14 trillion for the 2016/17 fiscal year.
The commissioner claimed he would deal with “the elephant in the room”, but then did exactly the opposite, and did not disclose the amount owing in VAT refunds as of 31 March 2017.
The commissioner simply cannot claim to have reached the revised target if there are significant amounts outstanding in VAT refunds, which we know amounted to R19.6 billion as of 28 February 2017.
I will, therefore, write to the SARS commissioner, Tom Moyane, requesting him to disclose the total amount of VAT refunds outstanding as of 31 March 2017.
We cannot have a situation where the SARS potentially misleads the public about its performance in terms of revenue collection into the 2016/17 fiscal year.