Advocates for the Finance Minister, the Reserve Bank and Absa delivered blistering attacks on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s Absa-Bankorp report in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) yesterday, raising serious doubt about her motives, notes a Business Day report.

The importance of the Public Protector in SA’s constitutional democracy necessitated that she ‘not misuse the powers afforded her’ and complied with requirements of legal fairness, ‘at the heart of which is rationality’, said Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, counsel for Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. In order to be rational, a decision must be based on accurate findings of fact and correct application of the law.’

In papers, Gigaba, the Reserve Bank and Absa have repeatedly asserted that Mkhwebane’s findings paid no regard to the evidence before her, including the findings of previous probes into the Absa-Bankorp lifeboat and submissions made by various parties on the matter. The arguments presented by the applicants yesterday suggest that, at best, Mkhwebane has been incompetent and negligent in this investigation and, at worst, had ulterior motives.

Three judges are hearing the matter, which dates back to a 2010 complaint laid with the Public Protector by Paul Hoffman, director of Accountability Now, over the government’s alleged failure to implement the ‘Ciex report’. The report was the work of British Intelligence officer Michael Oatley, who in 1997 agreed to help the government recover misappropriated apartheid-era public funds. This included the R1.125bn bail-out granted to Bankorp.

Absa later bought Bankorp and, Oatley alleged, benefited from the Reserve Bank assistance – a conclusion with which Mkhwebane agreed.

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