Stench of decay hanging over SA's body politic

28 October 2016 - 10:16 By The Times Editorial

In a scene in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus stand on the battlements of the castle discussing the state of affairs in Denmark. Marcellus is shaken by the events and angered at the mismanagement of the body politic by Claudius (Hamlet's uncle). He notes that: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."The phrase is now quoted often and, in South Africa, given the fraud charges levelled at Pravin Gordhan and counter-claims of political motivation of the charges, and the manhandling of a recalcitrant SARS official, could not be more apt.Either our finance minister is a crook who violated the Public Finances Management Act, as described in the National Prosecuting Authority's charge sheet, or the investigatory and prosecuting arms of our justice system are being manipulated.If the contentions of The Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law are true, the rot lies within the justice system. In court papers in which they call on the NPA to withdraw its charges, they assert that a SARS deputy director of legal administration, Vlok Symington, was forcibly confined while the Hawks and SARS commissioner Tom Moyane's bodyguard attempted to coerce him into surrendering a document in his possession. In 2009, Symington wrote a legal opinion stating that there was "no technicality" that prevented SARS from reappointing deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, who had taken early retirement, and that Pillay was "entitled" to ask Gordhan to waive the early retirement penalty. The charges against Gordhan relate to this payment.What is curious is that all this happened after the decision was taken to prosecute Gordhan which, according to the foundation and Freedom Under Law, suggests "a desperate, 11th-hour attempt to prop up a prosecution that was hopeless from the start".What is incontrovertible is that all is not as it seems in the investigation of Gordhan and we will have to hope that, as Horatio replied to Marcellus: "Heaven will direct it."

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