Sars Wars: Gordhan to strike back
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will either today or tomorrow reveal all the facts relating to SA Revenue Service (Sars) and a Hawks letter sent to him about the alleged rogue unit.
Speaking at a PwC event in Rosebank, Gordhan said “hopefully later today or early tomorrow I intend to put all the facts on the table”, Business Day reported on Friday.
Gordhan called the letter "totally outrageous", but said he kept quiet about it until after his budget address on Wednesday to “put the interest of the country and the economy … first”, the report said.
The letter was sent while Gordhan was in the final stages of preparing his crucial fiscal budget, which he delivered on Wednesday.
"Never heard of in the 20 years of democracy in SA where one part of the state begins to tackle a minister in office," he reportedly said.
He also confirmed that he didn’t want Sars Commissioner Tom Moyane at his pre-budget press conference, saying: “The presence of the Sars commissioner is subject to the whims and fancies of the minister. If you want him there you can have him there. It is at the discretion of the minister."
Fin24’s sister publication Netwerk24 reported on Thursday that the Hawks sent a letter to Gordhan in which he is cross examined about the alleged "rogue unit" at Sars.
Questions in a two-week old letter to Gordhan are apparently aimed at establishing the extent of his own "guilt", said a Netwerk24 source who had seen the letter.
"Gordhan has not replied yet and is in consultation with his legal representatives," said the source.
Netwerk24 revealed that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks are "collaborating hard" to prosecute Ivan Pillay, Johann van Loggerenberg and Andries (Skollie) Janse van Rensburg of Sars.
Advocate Shaun Abrahams, head of the NPA, is "directly involved" with the "serious attempt" to prosecute the former Sars officials, said a senior source with knowledge of the case. Luvuyo Mfaku, NPA spokesperson, said the dossier "has not been presented to the NPA and, therefore, it cannot comment".
Complaints regarding crimes by the state are apparently investigated by the Hawks.
It refers, among others, to Project Sunday Evenings, in terms of which certain Sars members "spied" on the NPA about eight years ago.
Questions to Gordhan apparently include whether he was aware of the existence of Project Sunday Evenings and the "rogue unit".
At the time Gordhan was the head of Sars before succeeding Trevor Manuel as minister of finance.
Pillay, former head of Sars, and Van Loggerenberg, former head of investigations at Sars, are not aware of the investigation against them.
Pillay "has not received any enquiry from the Hawks or the NPA".
Van Loggerenberg denied the possible complaint against him: "I deny that I ever committed a crime, let alone a crime against the state."
The ANC said on Friday it was "extremely concerned" about reports that the Hawks sent questions to Gordhan four days before his Budget Speech about his knowledge of a rogue unit at the SA Revenue Services.
"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 secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
"The ANC commends (the) minister of finance and his team for the hard work and the energy that they invested thus far. We further reiterate our full confidence in the minister and his team for the work they continue to do," Mantashe said in a statement.
DA MP David Maynier on Friday called on Gordhan to publicly clarify whether he gave an ultimatum and threatened to resign and how he intends to proceed to deal with the fallout at Sars.
“The minister’s resignation would be a disaster, sending us hurtling towards a sovereign ratings downgrade in South Africa,” the head of the DA’s finance portfolio said in a statement.
Gordhan's office has been approached for comment and it will be added to the article once received.