The ANC has expressed its full confidence in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, while at the same time condemning the conduct of the police’s elite crime fighting unit – the Hawks. This came after it emerged Gordhan was delivered a letter from the Hawks four days before his crucial budget speech, questioning the minister about his tenure at Sars.
Various sources confirmed this as a salvo in the proxy war between president Jacob Zuma and Gordhan with the battle over state resources at stake.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Friday issued a statement expressing concerns regarding the Hawks’ conduct.
“We are extremely concerned that 4 days before the minister delivered the budget speech, questions from the Hawks were sent to the minister. The timing of these questions indicates clearly that there was intention to distract the minister during this important time. It is even more disconcerting that these questions were leaked to the media. In our view this is a well-calculated destabilisation plan with all the elements of disinformation, falsehoods and exaggerated facts,” said Mantashe.
The Hawks case against Gordhan is understood to relate to the alleged rogue unit saga that has dogged Sars, prompted by claims that the revenue service had conducted illegal intelligence gathering under Gordhan’s watch. The same allegations were used by Sars commissioner Tom Moyane to move against top revenue officials perceived to be loyal to Gordhan, notably deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, who was charged internally, but resigned after reaching an out of court settlement with Sars.
Alliance sources told the Mail & Guardian this week that Gordhan threatened to resign days before he delivered his budget speech if Zuma did not remove Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane from his position, but Zuma refused. Gordhan delivered his speech with an ongoing Hawks investigation hanging over his head.
He was called back as finance minister in the wake of the reversal of Zuma’s disastrous appointment of Des van Rooyen. Zuma made it clear this week that he was forced to backtrack by stating publicly that Van Rooyen was the most qualified person for the finance minister’s job.
Mantashe’s statement is reminiscent of the tensions that surfaced between the ANC and law enforcement agencies – particularly the scorpions in the run-up to the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference.
Mantashe said the ANC had reliable information on the individual leaking information to the media and will be engaging the person in this regard.
“In the event that the Hawks have anything to investigate related to the minister and SARS, it would be in the best interest of our country if they did so professionally, using the correct channel and procedures and not seek to conduct a trial through the media,” said Mantashe
Business Day quoted Gordan who was speaking at the PriceWaterhouseCooper (PWC) post-budget function on Friday describing Moyane’s defiance of the executive authority responsible for that entity as “absolutely unacceptable”.
“If there is such defiance, one must ask the question: What is there to hide? What has been going on in this place over the last 18 months that somebody does not want to account to the new minister on?” he asked.
“We’ll get to the bottom of that at some stage but I’m still hopeful that mature minds will come forward and that we put the interest of the country and the economy … first.”
When asked what he would do if he were finance minister, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, who spoke at the same PwC function, reportedly said: “I’d take 20 seconds and use it to craft a letter of dismissal for Tom Moyane.”
Gordhan also confirmed that he had received a letter from the Hawks last week Friday but that “in the interest of” the country, the economy and not destabilising the budget, he “thought it necessary to keep quiet” about it until after the delivery of the budget. He referred to the letter as “totally outrageous”.