Zuma gets a break: Public protector loses latest court battle_1

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mhkwebane’s bid to obtain the 2009 tax records of former president Jacob Zuma has been dealt a knockout blow, after the North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and said that private taxpayer records are not up for grabs. 

Zuma had signed off on Mkhwebane investigating his records, a means of “clearing the air”, but SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said that the tax collector was at no liberty or obligation to hand over the tax records of any private citizen, subpoena or not. 

And Judge Peter Mabuse agreed with him, ruling that Mkhwebane’s subpoena powers did not extend to taxpayer information.

The public protector will now have to pay 15% of SARS’ legal costs. 

Embarrassing blow 

This will come as another embarrassing blow to the public protector, who’s head has been on the chopping block since she lost her court battle with President Cyril Ramaphosa, who she accused of lying to parliament over his CR17 campaign funding. 

The Judge in that case questioned her ability to comprehend the law, and it would seem she was again ill-advised to take on SARS, whose victory at the North Gauteng High Court today is the result of yet another simple legal interpretation.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni had said on Twitter at the time that the high court ruling signalled that the time had come for Mkhwebane to fall on her sword, but became embroiled in a war of words with members of the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) top brass, who defended her position. 

Retired judge and chairperson of Freedom Under Law Johann Kriegler said that Mkhwebane was simply not fit for office. 

“She is in no position to criticise. I do not believe that she has any basis to criticise the media for being acutely aware of her own inadequacies. We have said for some time now that the lady is not fit for the office and it is time that she is removed from the office.”