Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will not present himself on Friday to the Hawks in order to deliver a warning statement.
Around 5pm on Thursday afternoon, Gordhan’s office sent out a plethora of documents to journalists, effectively saying: Game on, I’ll fight this out in the open.
In an official statement, Gordhan said he has no intention of presenting himself “for a warning statement for many considerations, both legal and given my other commitments”.
He finished it off by saying “I have a job to do in a difficult economic environment and will serve South Africa as best I can. Let me do my job.”
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi declined to comment on Gordhan’s defiance.
This comes after the Hawks this week sent letters to Gordhan and two former colleagues ordering them to present themselves on Friday for warning statements.
According to the letters, signed by the Hawks’ organised crime head, Major General Nneke Ledwaba, Gordhan, Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg stand to be accused of contraventions to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act, and the National Strategic Intelligence Act.
Peter Richer was also asked for a warning statement.
However, Richer said his work relates to the time he was employed by state security and therefore pre-approval must be gained from the relevant authorities before he is permitted to answer the Hawks’ questions.
The Hawks also accuse Gordhan of committing fraud when he granted early retirement to the former deputy Sars boss, Ivan Pillay.
According to Ledwaba, this amounted to unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful expenditure under the PFMA.
In his statement to the Hawks, Gordhan says he was asked in August 2010 by then Sars boss Oupa Magashula to approve Pillay’s early retirement and re-employment on a fixed-term contract.
“I was told that Mr. Pillay sought in this way to gain access to his pension fund to finance the education of his children. I understood that Mr. Magashula had established from enquiries made with the department of public service and administration that the terms of Mr. Pillay’s early retirement and re-employment were lawful and unusual.”
Gordhan approved Magashula’s proposal because he “believed it to be entirely above board”.
Gordhan has however stood firm, saying he has been advised by his legal team that the “assertions of law made by the Hawks in their letter of August 21 2016 are wholly unfounded on any version of the facts”.
Constitutional law expert professor Pierre de Vos, in the meantime, labelled the Hawks charges “bizarre” and “legal nonsense” that would make a first year law student blush, mostly because the sections of the PFMA and National Strategic Intelligence Act does not create a criminal offence.
The charges relate to the establishment and conduct of a small South African Revenue (Sars) Service investigative unit, the National Research Group, which would be later known as the High Risk Investigation Unit which focused on serious organised crime and reported to Van Loggerenberg as well as the early retirement and rehiring of Pillay.
Charges against Gordhan, Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were laid with the Hawks by the current Sars boss, Tom Moyane, after a dubious KPMG report found a possibility of wrongdoing on their side.
It has long been an open secret that Moyane and Gordhan do not get along, with Moyane defying Gordhan on several direct instructions in the past.
In an official draft statement to the Hawks, Gordhan said that he believes the unit was established lawfully and their conduct, to his knowledge, fell within the law.
“I firmly believed at all times that the establishment of the unit was an entirely lawful extension of Sars’s long-standing capacity to investigate tax-related crime. I still hold that belief and am advised that those who contend otherwise are mistaken,” Gordhan said in his statement.