/ 26 August 2016

#SarsWars: Pravin Gordhan tells national treasury staff the Guptas are out to get him

Pravin Gordhan has offered some optimism for SA's economic outlook despite his mid-term budget signalling plans for a rise in government debt.
Pravin Gordhan has offered some optimism for SA's economic outlook despite his mid-term budget signalling plans for a rise in government debt.

Embattled Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan allegedly told national treasury staff at a meeting on Friday that the Guptas were attacking him because of the work the department was doing.

Gordhan allegedly explained to staff that the Hawks had a faulty legal reading of the charges against him and there was no legal basis for their investigation.

He also allegedly said that what was currently happening in the country was a battle for “Mandela values” versus the values of those who steal.

Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda did not comment on the meeting.

Gordhan’s staff meeting comes days after it emerged that the Hawks had asked Gordhan, his former deputy at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) Ivan Pillay, and four other senior former Sars officials to provide warning statements.

A warning statement is a precursor to a suspect being charged criminally.

Legal advice

Gordhan, Pillay, former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula, former head of risk Pete Richer and Johann van Loggerenberg, former head of the Sars investigations unit called the National Research Group, were summoned to appear before the Hawks on Thursday morning.

The Western Cape Hawks had already obtained a warning statement from Van Loggerenberg’s predecessor, Andries “Skollie” Janse van Rensburg.

The unit wanted to question Gordhan regarding his alleged contravention of the National Strategic Intelligence Act and Public Finance Management Act. These related to his approval of former Sars commissioner Pillay’s early retirement in 2010 and to the alleged creation of an intelligence unit within Sars.

In a statement on Wednesday, Gordhan said he had taken legal advice and had no obligation to present himself to the Hawks. He said he should be left to do his job in a difficult economic environment.

Gordhan was Sars commissioner between 1999 and 2009. During this period a so-called “rogue unit” was allegedly established. It was allegedly involved in illegal intelligence gathering.

Pillay and Van Loggerenberg met with the Hawks amid support from civil society who were concerned the investigation was really a battle for control of the country’s purse strings.

Zuma powerless to stop investigation

The lawyer representing them said his clients will follow due process in their case with the Hawks.

“Our clients wish to thank civil society for their support. Our clients consider the allegations to be baseless and will be following due process in accordance with their rights. That is all we are going to answer now,” lawyer Robert Levin told reporters after meeting with Hawks investigators.

Members of Section27, Right2Know, Freedom Under Law, the Helen Suzman Foundation and advocate George Bizos gathered outside the offices of the Hawks in Pretoria to pledge their support. They accused the Hawks of going on a witch hunt fuelled by baseless accusations.

Van Loggerenberg thanked the people of South Africa for their support but declined to comment on the matter.

“The support is wonderful and thanks very much. Not only to the people who came but to the people who continuously send us messages. I have received thousands of messages since yesterday. I don’t know why the meeting took so long, you should direct those questions to the Hawks,” he said.

President Jacob Zuma meanwhile said he had full confidence in Gordhan but he did not have the power to stop any investigations into any individuals. – News24