Rumours of finance minister's imminent arrest a disaster for SA, says DA

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma. (Rogan Ward, Reuters)

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma. (Rogan Ward, Reuters)

The arrest of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will be a disaster for South Africa and cause an economic earthquake and make “9/12” look like a minor economic tremor, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

“Rumours reported today [Sunday] suggest that the minister may be arrested together with eight other officials to face charges relating to the SARS [SA Revenue Service] ‘rogue unit’,” DA spokesperson David Maynier said.

However, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku reportedly said no decision had been made to prosecute and that the matter remained under investigation, Maynier said.

“The timing of the rumours could not be worse and will not only cause further turmoil in the markets, but also compromise efforts to avoid a ratings downgrade in South Africa.

“What is worrying is that authorities are reportedly waiting for the ‘political go ahead’ before ordering the arrest of the minister and eight other officials to face charges relating to the SARS ‘rogue unit’.”

This suggested that the investigation was politically motivated and part of President Jacob Zuma’s fight back campaign and attempt to neuter the National Treasury.

“The only option with any hope of avoiding mutually assured destruction is to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry in terms of section 84 of the Constitution to investigate all the allegations surrounding the so-called SARS ‘rogue unit’,” Maynier said.

The Sunday Times reported the Hawks want Gordhan to be prosecuted for “espionage” in a case related to the activities of the SARS “rogue unit” established while he was the tax agency’s commissioner.

The move was likely to plunge the markets back into the turmoil seen in December last year when Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on December 9, the newspaper reported.

According to senior Hawks sources, the unit had handed over a case docket to the NPA for a decision to prosecute Gordhan and eight other former SARS officials said to have been involved in or have had knowledge of the unit’s activities. The unit had been accused of illegally gathering intelligence and spying on taxpayers.

Insiders at the Hawks and the NPA told the Sunday Times that they were waiting for the “political go-ahead” before acting, the newspaper reported.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi reportedly declined to comment, while Mfaku said it was “incorrect that a decision has been made to prosecute anyone. The matter is still under investigation”. 

Presidency rejects Cabinet ‘rumours and gossip’
Meanwhile, the presidency on Sunday condemned the “actions of information peddlers who keep spreading rumours about alleged changes in the Cabinet of President Jacob Zuma”, referring to reports covered in the day’s newspapers.

“Ministers serve at the pleasure of the president.
He has the prerogative to hire and fire ministers at any time,” Zuma’s spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said in a statement.

“Despite that, the presidency issued a statement recently communicating that there were no plans to change the Minister of Finance [Pravin Gordhan]. Information peddlers have also been spreading false rumours about changes in the department of trade and industry [dti]. A statement was also issued recently rebutting the dti rumours, he said.

Zuma and government were focused on the goal of uniting business, labour, government, and the whole country behind the mission of strengthening the economy and reigniting growth during the current difficult economic climate.

A lot of progress was being made in this regard and work would continue to fight the slow growth so that jobs could be saved and created, Ngqulunga said. – African News Agency (ANA)

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