Cape Town – The Hawks allegations against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, for which he was instructed to report to their offices on Thursday at 2pm, have no basis in law, his lawyers say.
Responding to the Hawks letter sent to him on Monday, Gordhan says he has been advised that the “assertions of law made by the Hawks… are wholly unfounded on any version of the facts” and he will therefore, along with other considerations, not present himself for the taking of a warning statement.
“I have a job to do in a difficult economic environment and serve South Africa as best I can,” Gordhan says in his letter to Hawks Major-General Sylvia Ledwaba.
“Let me do my job,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Gordhan has received the backing of Business Leadership SA, which in an open letter to President Jacob Zuma says the investigation of Gordhan lacks any legitimacy or credibility and his possible arrest threatens all progress made by the country in the past eight months.
“It is shocking that our national collective effort to avoid a ratings downgrade and to restore inclusive economic growth is now being so insidiously subverted. If this sinister behaviour is allowed to continue the consequences will be devastating for our economy, and will fatally undermine our national efforts to address poverty, inequality, and unemployment,” the board of BLSA says.
The board says the country “stands once more on the edge of the abyss”.
“We urge you to act to preserve the unity and progress we have achieved since December by ensuring an end to the harassment, intimidation, and undermining of the leadership of our most important economic governance institutions.”
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel, meanwhile, says the Sars unit at the centre of the allegations against Gordhan and other former officials of the revenue service was established in the letter and spirit of the law.
Speaking on eNCA, Manuel said the Hawks were threatening the unity of the state and accused Zuma of failing to hold organs of state together in terms of the principle of co-operative governance.
It was “unseeming” of the Hawks to make pronouncements on ministers.
Further civil society support for the Sars leadership is expected to be on display on Thursday, when Judge Johan Kriegler, Advocate George Bizos and the Helen Suzman Foundation are to accompany former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay when he reports to the Hawks at 9am.
In their letter to Ledwaba, Gordhan’s lawyers point out that the allegation that Gordhan facilitated the creation of a unit which gathered intelligence contrary to section 3 of the National Strategic Intelligence Act 39 of 1994 is unfounded in law as the section did not apply to Sars.
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Section 3(1) applies only to departments of state that are required by law to perform functions “with regard to the security of the Republic or the combating of any threat to the security of the Republic”, Gordhan’s lawyers say.
“Sars is not such a department. It was never engaged in national security matters. It was accordingly not subject to the prohibition in s 3(1).”
The section also applied only to intelligence about any threat or potential threat to the national security and stability of the Republic, while the Sars unit had never engaged in the gathering of intelligence of this kind.
In his own statement in response to the Hawks letter, Gordhan says the Sars unit was part of the broader enforcement division, which had enforcement capabilities similar to those required in any tax and customs administration in the world.
DA spokesman on finance David Maynier has also come out in full support of Gordhan not reporting to the Hawks, saying it “marks the beginning of a fight back by Minister Gordhan against President Zuma’s witch-hunt, levelled against the very man who holds the keys to the nation’s public purse – the National Treasury”.
“Zuma knows his days are swiftly coming to an end – both as President of the ANC and of the country – and has now begun to accelerate his personal project of state capture, in order to centralise power and get his hands on the people’s money to continue enriching himself and his band of cronies,” Maynier says.