Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is facing further scrutiny from the Hawks investigative unit – and will be facing it alone, as President Jacob Zuma distances himself from the saga.
Gordhan has been the subject of an investigation over the allegedly illegal activities of the so-called “rogue unit” of SARS, after a report commissioned by SARS head Tom Monyane indicated that it was set up under the minister’s watch during his tenure at the revenue service.
According to a report by the City Press, the Hawks unit claims to have a strong case against Gordhan and other former SARS officials, and it is ready to submit a docket to the office of the national director of public prosecutions.
All of this information was contained in an “information note” which was delivered to Gordhan, seen by City Press.
The note has a list of 27 questions addressed to Gordhan, and says that the Hawks are giving him ample time – until Wednesday – to answer the questions and to consult with his legal team.
Zuma distances himself
The report cited sources in the Hawks which said that President Zuma was briefed by police minister Nati Nhleko and Hawks head Major General Mthandazo Ntlemeza on the matter, and was taken through the contents of the note.
Government officials told the paper that Zuma has no power to instruct law enforcement agencies what to do, or to tell them to stop an investigation, and that Gordhan wanted to “be above the law, which is difficult for the president”.
According to the paper, insiders said Gordhan will not be receiving any legal help from the president, who believes the minister should co-operate with the investigation.
Gordhan has said that the Hawks are trying to destabilise his department, and has equated it to a “second attempted coup on the powerhouse department”.
It was reported earlier this week that Gordhan threatened to resign from Cabinet, saying it was either SARS head Tom Monyane or him. The finance minister later denied this, but reiterated that Monyane would be redeployed.
According to the City Press, the president is in an awkward position as Monyane is known to be a Zuma loyalist – while Gordhan is fairly independent-minded, and reportedly clashes with the president.
However, Gordhan has the backing and trust of investors and business people, and the president cannot risk another economic blunder like the Nhlanhla Nene sacking incident in December 2015.
The presidency issues out a statement on Friday saying that Zuma has full confidence in Gordhan, and that the “rumours and gossip” insinuating a conspiracy against Gordhan are baseless.
You can read the full story in the City Press for 28 February 2016.