The Hawks elite police unit on Tuesday warned Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan it would “exercise its constitutional powers” after he failed to meet a second deadline to answer its questions.
The rand lost 3%, hitting exactly R16.00 against the dollar at 16h45.
It traded at R22.56 versus the pound (down 1.70%), and lost 2.66% against the euro at R17.70.
Gordhan said on Sunday that a deadline imposed on him by the Hawks to respond to questions on his role in setting up a spy unit at the South African Revenue Service was not achievable.
According to Reuters, the Hawks are investigating the unit on suspicion of conducting illegal surveillance on taxpayers, while Gordhan has said he has no case to answer.
Gordhan said in his statement that a letter sent by his attorneys to the head of the police unit on 7 March 2016, indicates clearly that the deadline imposed “is not achievable given the roadshow I was undertaking”.
The minister embarked on an investor roadshow in London and the United States last week, as the country fends off junk status by major ratings agencies.
“Our immediate task – all of us – is to avoid a downgrade and find urgent ways of growing our economy and creating jobs,” the minister said.
“Once again the Hawks, and those who instruct them, have no regard for the economic and social welfare of millions,” Gordhan’s statement said.
The Hawks hit back in a statement of their own on Tuesday, noting that the minister, “for whatever reasons, has failed to meet the second deadline for answering questions”.
The crime unit said that its legal team “are forging a way forward which will see the Hawks exercising our constitutional powers”.
“The investigations will not be stalled by an individual who refuses to comply with the authorities and demand a preferential treatment,” the Hawks said.
“This is neither a talk-show nor a soapie. We are mandated to investigate without fear, favour or prejudice and there is nowhere in the constitution wherein calling a press conference has been mentioned as another means of conducting investigations,” it said.
Read the full statement here