/ 27 October 2016

Pravin Gordhan: I heard whispers of Sars ‘hostage’ incident

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan operates on a two week cycle as he prepares to be ousted at any stage.
Finance minister Pravin Gordhan operates on a two week cycle as he prepares to be ousted at any stage.

During a meeting in Parliament where Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was grilled by MPs on his midterm budget speech and review, the finance minister said that he had heard talk of an incident at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) where four Hawks officials held a senior Sars employee against his will to obtain documents related to the fraud charges against Gordhan.

“The incident at Sars, I heard whispers about it to be frank. I have no formal report yet. I believe there’s something on the wires this morning, but I haven’t had a chance to look at it,” Gordhan said.

The minister was answering a question on whether he had been aware of the incident at Sars before the it became public. 

The Mail & Guardian broke the story on Wednesday night after obtaining video and audio footage of Brigadier Nyameka Xaba,the Hawks lead investigator in the case against Gordhan, along with Thabo Titi, Sars commissioner Tom Moyane’s bodyguard, preventing Vlok Symington from leaving a boardroom at Sars’s head office. 

From the footage, it appears the Hawks investigators and Titi held Symington in order to obtain answers to questions sent by Torie Pretorius, the lead prosecutor in the Gordhan case. 

Moyane had sent a chain of damning emails which found their way to Symington’s senior at Sars, Kosie Louw. In the emails, a Sars lawyer suggests that he disagrees with the National Prosecuting Authority’s case against Gordhan.

At the time Symington was being held, Titi is said to have been talking to Moyane on the phone. Gordhan said in Parliament that he would request an explanation from Moyane.

“I will ask Mr Moyane for an explanation as soon as I get a chance. If this it true, it’s unacceptable behaviour,” Gordhan said. 

“But let’s get the facts first and we will take it from there.”

Gordhan, former deputy Sars commisioner Ivan Pillay and former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula are being charged with fraud in relation to a pension payout Gordhan approved for Pillay, who was later reappointed.

The case will be heard on November 2, where protest action and pickets are set to take place in support of Gordhan.