THE Mail & Guardian welcomed Thursday's ruling by Judge Ntsikelelo
Poswa of the Gauteng North High Court overturning Public Protector
Lawrence Mushwana’s report on the Oilgate scandal, according to a media release from the newspaper.

The M&G took Mushwana’s report, widely held to have been a “whitewash”, on review under the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act following its release in July 2005. Judge Poswa heard the matter in November 2007 and gave judgement on Thursday.

Among the more odious aspects of Mushwana’s report were that he refused to pursue the money trail to the ANC, claiming that this was private and outside his mandate, and that he ignored clear evidence of wrongdoing relating to aspects of the allegations that he did investigate.

The M&G revealed in May 2005 how R11-million in taxpayers’ money had flowed from PetroSA, the state oil company, to the ANC through empowerment oil trader Imvume Management.

Further articles revealed:

•how Imvume had made payments to persons close to or for the benefit of former social development minister Zola Skweyiya and former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; and

•how Imvume, effectively a front for the ANC, had promised South Africa’s support to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in exchange for oil, which Imvume sold to the South African state following a “rigged” tender.
Mushwana, who made no attempt to consult the M&G during his investigation, held in his report: “Much of what has been published by the Mail & Guardian was factually incorrect, based on incomplete information and documentation and comprised unsubstantiated suggestions and unjustified speculation.”

Poswa’s ruling vindicates the M&G. It sets aside Mushwana’s report and orders a new investigation, including of the matters which Mushwana claimed were outside his mandate. He also awarded costs to the M&G.

Judge Poswa’s full order reads:

That the respondent’s report titled Report on an Investigation into an Allegation of Misappropriation of Public Funds by the Petroleum Oil and Gas Corporation of South Africa, trading as PetroSA, and matters allegedly related thereto, dated 29 July 2005 (“the Report”) is set aside.

•That the respondent or his successor in title is to investigate complaints that were not investigated, re-investigate all complaints that were investigated and write a report on the outcome of his/her investigation.

•That the respondent or his successor must, when doing such investigation, take into account the findings of the Donen Commission, if any findings have been made by such Commission, and, to the extent that such findigns are consisten with his or her own findings, incorporate them into his or her own findings.

•That the respondent pays the applicants’ costs.

M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes commented: “The ruling is further vindication of the extraordinary investigative work done by Stefaans Brümmer and Sam Sole. More importantly, it puts the public protector on notice that his duty is to the Constitution and the people of South Africa, not to powerful political and financial interests.

“We look forward a more thorough investigation of the Oilgate saga by the public protector, and to the prospect of genuine accountability for the abuse of public money for party political purposes uncovered by our reporting.

“We also hope the court's ruling that the public protector must take into account the findings of the Donen Commission will result in those findings, unjustifiably kept secret by former president Thabo Mbeki, being made public.”