Hawks are threatening me - Pravin Gordhan
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has lashed out at the Hawks‚ saying the elite investigations unit is threatening him but he will not be swayed from his vital task of managing South Africa's economy.
"The Minister would have liked to abide by the request of the Presidency and the ANC (as an NEC member) to not debate this matter publicly. However‚ once again the Hawks triggered a response because of their threatening statement‚" read a statement issued by the National Treasury‚ on behalf of the Ministry of Finance.
"Ideally‚ the minister will not be commenting any further. His focus remains on the vital work of the National Treasury."
In a highly unusual step‚ the Hawks publicly advised the Minister earlier on Tuesday that he would not receive preferential treatment and that its work would not be stalled by a lack of co-operation.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation‚ commonly known as the Hawks‚ wants to find out what Gordhan knows about the so-called “rogue unit” set up at the South African Revenue Service under his watch‚ when he was the Sars commissioner.
Investigators sent two letters to Gordhan wanting answers to 27 questions. The initial deadline of March 1 passed when he said he was prepping the National Budget and did not have time to comply‚ and he said he had not received the second letter‚ which set Monday 14 March as the deadline.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said in a statement on Tuesday the unit was concerned about Gordhan’s statement that he was not aware of the letter sent to him‚ detailing 4pm on March 14 as the deadline for answering the questions.
“The Hawks do not engage people on public space but the Minister has left us no choice but to clear the air‚ set the record straight and restore public’s trust on us as an elite crime fighting unit‚” he said.
Mulaudzi said acknowledgement of the second letter was received by Gordhan’s lawyers.
“...Had the minister‚ like any law-abiding citizen‚ complied with our letter and provided answers‚ we would not be where we are today.
“This is neither a talk-show nor a soapie. We are mandated to investigate without fear‚ favour or prejudice…
“The minister‚ for whatever reasons‚ has failed to meet the SECOND deadline for answering questions and our legal team are forging a way forward which will see the Hawks exercising our constitutional powers‚” Mulaudzi said.
“The investigations will not be stalled by an individual who refuses to comply with the authorities and demand a preferential treatment.”
The Treasury statement in response to this letter stated it wanted to clarify that a Sunday Independent story‚ created an impression that the Hawks had sent the Minister of Finance a “new letter” over the weekend and this was not responded to.
"This was totally misleading. The last letter received from the Hawks is dated 3 March 2016. The minister’s legal representatives received it on 4 March 2016 and responded to it on 7 March 2016. That there is a letter that has not been responded to is factually incorrect.
"Those who leaked the letter deliberately sought to mislead and malign the person of the minister.
"Notwithstanding that the Hawks have not responded to minister’s lawyers’ representations for further clarity‚ the minister has nonetheless instructed his legal team to prepare an adequate response."