Gordhan says no to appearing before Hawks
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has indicated that no legal obligation exists for him to hand himself over to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, otherwise known as the Hawks, later today.
This comes after the unit on Tuesday requested that Gordhan report their offices by 14h00 on Thursday, to answer questions about the alleged rogue tax unit setup at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) in 2007.
Gordhan, who was SARS commissioner from 1999 to 2009, has however stated that while he is prepared to assist the Hawks “in any bonafide investigation”, he will not hand himself over after consultations with his legal team.
“I am advised by my legal team that the assertions of law made by the Hawks in their letter of 21 August 2016 are wholly unfounded on any version of the facts,” Gordhan said in a statement.
“There are two matters raised by the Hawks and these are contravention of the National Strategic Intelligence Act as well as Sections 34 and 81 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act. These alleged contraventions are dealt with in detail in my attorneys’ attached letter. Suffice it to say they advise that the alleged charges are wholly unfounded”.
He continued, “I therefore, do not intend to present myself for a warning statement for many considerations, both legal and given my other commitments. I have a job to do in a difficult economic environment and serve South Africa as best I can. Let me do my job”.
Opposition parties have meanwhile weighed in on the debate with Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Finance, David Maynier, saying Gordhan’s arrest would “shatter investor confidence, risk a sovereign ratings downgrade and be a disaster for the already fragile zero growth, zero jobs economy in South Africa”.
According to reports, the Rand dropped nearly three percent of its value not long after the news broke, with the national currency breaking through the R14 against the US Dollar mark on Wednesday morning.
In a similar reaction, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said Gordhan’s refusal signals his “fight-back” against “the witch-hunt imposed by President Jacob Zuma”.
“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,” Maimane said.
“He has absolutely no regard for this country or its citizens [and] cares only for himself and those connected to him. While we fully respect the Rule of Law and due process, we are in full support of anyone who stands up to Jacob Zuma and his project of capturing the state and its machinery to further his own nefarious agenda”.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has however called on Gordhan to reconsider his decision and give into the Hawks’ demands, even though they consider him to be innocent.
“To refuse to present himself to the Hawks will be to act with the same disrespect shown by Zuma and his faction to institutions of the state,” EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said in a statement.
“If he is innocent, which we believe he is, there is nothing the Hawks can do. The last thing we need is anyone being treated as if they are above the law. At all times, we ought to respect institutions of the state and uphold them above individuals who may be at their helm”.
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