POLITICS

Gordhan Slams Ciex Absa Apartheid Report And Tells Mngxitama Where To Get Off

A strident minister of finance says in court papers no responsible government could act on a report by ex-British spies.

30/01/2017 08:44 SAST | Updated 30/01/2017 10:47 SAST
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Finance minister Pravin Gordhan address the media following his Medium term budget speech inside the National Assembly in Cape Town, aon October 26, 2016.

Pravin Gordhan has slammed the controversial Ciex Report into the alleged apartheid-era looting of state coffers, calling the former British spies' recommendations "bounty hunting" and saying a court application by firebrand leader of Black Land First Andile Mngxitama is "scandalous, vexatious and irrelevant".

The minister of finance filed his replying affidavit in the matter between Mngxitama's Black First Land First movement, himself, as well as Absa, FNB, Standard Bank, Nedbank and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) on Thursday last week. Black First Land First wants to force Gordhan and FNB to implement the recommendations of the Ciex Report.

Gordhan dismisses the Ciex Report as having 'no legal status'.

It is the first official government response to the Ciex Report, which forms the basis of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's provisional report into the SARB lifeboat extended to the now-defunct Bankorp and Absa in the 1980s and 1990s. The public protector's investigation was started by Thuli Madonsela in 2011.

In the papers, Gordhan dismisses the Ciex Report as having "no legal status" and argues the recommended manner in which the funds would have been recouped are "extra-judicial" and does not comply with the law.

But more importantly, Gordhan asserts that government repudiated Ciex and its recommendations and that two properly constituted investigations (by bodies led by Judges Willem Heath and Dennis Davis respectively) found that it would not be practical or worthwhile to recover funds from Absa.

By the time the secret 50 page Ciex Report was leaked in 2010, the 150 page Davis Report had long since been considered by the relevant government authority, the SARB.Pravin Gordhan

Mkhwebane's provisional report states that government was negligent in not acting on and implementing the Ciex Report -– Gordhan however says government at the time "did not respond with inertia" and cites the findings of the Davis Panel, commissioned by the SARB. "By the time the secret 50-page Ciex Report was leaked in 2010, the 150-page Davis Report had long since been considered by the relevant government authority, the SARB."

Ciex, a recovery firm founded by former members of the British intelligence community, says in a report handed to government in 1999 it can recover billions of rands that were allegedly looted from state coffers, this included recovery from companies like Absa, Salnam, Rembrandt (predecessor to the Rupert family's Remgro), bank vaults in Switzerland and Germany, and multinationals like Daimler Chrysler.

But the 52-page report does not contain any specific details or evidence of financial wrongdoing, or specifics on how the alleged looting took place.

Gordhan seems flabbergasted as to why he should now implement the recommendations: "That the Ciex Report has not been considered appropriate for implementation by any of the relevant authorities since the dawn of democracy, or by either the Heath investigation or the Davis panel, is significant. There has therefore been consistent decisions not to implement (or recommend the implementation) of the report."

The report was simply not as a matter of form and substance something on which a responsible government of the day could act . . . the Ciex investigation itself is intertwined and tainted by nefarious controversyGordhan

He says according to his information, Trevor Manuel, who was minister of finance at the time, will challenge the findings of the public protector in court if the public protector's report, when finally released, finds that he acted unreasonably in not implementing Ciex.

"The report was simply not as a matter of form and substance something on which a responsible government of the day could act ... the Ciex investigation itself is intertwined and tainted by nefarious controversy," Gordhan says.

The minister also rejected the allegations in Mngxitama's papers that his shareholding, which is declared in the register of Members of Parliament's interests, precludes him from serving as minister of finance.

He asks that the court reject Mngxitama's application with costs because of its "self-evident lack of merit, its attempt to attain political ends through litigation and the scandalous, vexatious and irrelevant allegations". He adds the public purse should not be burdened by defending this action.