Zuma in on Pravin probe

The Hawks’ Crimes Against the State unit is in­ves­ti­gat­ing and is at an ad­vanced stage

CityPress - - Front Page - ABRAM MASHEGO and RA­PULE TA­BANE news@city­press.co.za

The Hawks are con­fi­dent that they have a strong case against Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han and other for­mer SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) em­ploy­ees – and, de­spite yes­ter­day’s de­nials, are press­ing on with their in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Gord­han will not re­ceive any help in his le­gal bat­tles from Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, who is said to be­lieve that Gord­han should co­op­er­ate with in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

A se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial close to Zuma told City Press on Fri­day that the pres­i­dent can­not be ex­pected to in­ter­vene in po­lice and le­gal pro­cesses af­fect­ing Gord­han as that would amount to de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice.

A se­nior Hawks of­fi­cial told City Press yes­ter­day that Zuma was briefed by Po­lice Min­is­ter Nathi Nh­leko and Hawks head Ma­jor Gen­eral Mthandazo Ntle­meza on the progress of the case against Gord­han and other for­mer Sars of­fi­cials at a meet­ing last month.

Zuma was taken through the de­tails of the case, which are out­lined in a se­cret “in­for­ma­tion note” dated Jan­uary 20, a copy of which City Press has ob­tained, and which was de­liv­ered to State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter David Mahlobo. The pres­i­dent had not re­sponded to ques­tions at the time of go­ing to press.

The note re­veals that “the docket is ready to be sub­mit­ted to the of­fice of the Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions for fur­ther guid­ance”.

The govern­ment of­fi­cial told City Press on Fri­day: “Pravin wants to be above the law and that is dif­fi­cult for the pres­i­dent.

“The pres­i­dent does not have pow­ers to in­struct law en­force­ment agen­cies what to do or to tell them to stop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” the source said.

On Fri­day, Gord­han said it was un­heard of in 20 years of democ­racy for one part of state to tackle a serv­ing min­is­ter.

Gord­han con­firmed that he re­ceived a let­ter from the Hawks on Fri­day last week, but that “in the in­ter­est of” the coun­try, the econ­omy and not desta­bil­is­ing Bud­get 2016, which he de­liv­ered in Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day, he “thought it nec­es­sary to keep quiet” about it un­til af­ter his speech.

The of­fi­cial said Gord­han was the min­is­ter who worked clos­est with the pres­i­dent and it was strange that there were insinuations that Zuma was out to get him.

“The pres­i­dent meets with him more than any other min­is­ter. Even in the pres­i­dent’s state of the na­tion ad­dress, there were lines that came straight from Gord­han. Re­la­tions be­tween them are the best that they have ever been. They are quite open with each other,” the of­fi­cial said.

In a let­ter sent to Gord­han last Fri­day by Bri­gadier Nyameka Xaba, the head of the Hawks’ crimes against the state unit, which is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case, Xaba gave Gord­han un­til Wed­nes­day to “hand-de­liver” his re­sponses to his of­fice ( see doc­u­ments on page 2).

“Kindly be ad­vised that I deemed it fit to for­ward you the set of ques­tions to al­low rea­son­able time to con­sult with your le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives,” Xaba wrote.

“It is im­per­a­tive that this mat­ter be af­forded the nec­es­sary con­fi­den­tial­ity that it de­serves ... Ex­tra care should be given to avoid me­dia leak­age and in­ter­fer­ence with state wit­nesses.”

The in­for­ma­tion note, la­belled “se­cret”, de­tails Gord­han’s al­leged in­volve­ment with the for­ma­tion of the so-called rogue unit at Sars at the time he was com­mis­sioner.

The Hawks’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the unit be­gan af­ter Sars com­mis­sioner Tom Moy­ane laid a crim­i­nal com­plaint at the Brook­lyn Po­lice Sta­tion in Pre­to­ria in May last year.

In the doc­u­ment, the Hawks al­lege that Gord­han and for­mer Sars deputy com­mis­sioner Ivan Pil­lay were in­stru­men­tal in the cre­ation of the unit.

The case against Gord­han re­lates pri­mar­ily to his ap­proval of the unit’s for­ma­tion, as well as its op­er­a­tions, his ex­ten­sion of Pil­lay’s con­tract and Pil­lay’s early re­tire­ment set­tle­ment.

The doc­u­ment states that Gord­han ap­proved the for­ma­tion of the unit in Fe­bru­ary 2007, and the ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved by then fi­nance min­is­ter Trevor Manuel, de­spite mis­giv­ings ex­pressed by then deputy fi­nance min­is­ter Jabu Moleketi.

The re­port states that Moleketi wrote on the ap­pli­ca­tion: “Sup­ported, how­ever, this is strange way of ex­e­cut­ing what I con­sider to be an eco­nomic man­date of NIA [the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Agency]. It seems as though it is an add-on rather than part of NIA’s man­date.”

The Hawks doc­u­ment con­tin­ues: “Not­with­stand­ing the com­ments by the deputy min­is­ter, the min­is­ter of fi­nance, Mr Trevor Manuel, ap­proved the re­quest for funds to cater for in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­ity within NIA in sup­port of Sars.”

The doc­u­ment fur­ther deals with Pro­ject Sun­day Evenings, an op­er­a­tion driven by the Sars unit in which the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) head­quar­ters in Sil­ver­ton, Pre­to­ria, was al­legedly bugged with equip­ment bought in 2007 by for­mer Scor­pi­ons Gaut­eng head Ad­vo­cate Gerrie Nel, who is now a se­nior state pros­e­cu­tor, and chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor An­drew Leask.

They al­legedly ob­tained the R1.15 mil­lion for the equip­ment from the NPA’s C-fund.

“An in­ves­ti­ga­tion is be­ing un­der­taken against Adv Gerrie Nel and An­drew Leask and oth­ers on pos­si­ble con­tra­ven­tion of the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act,” the re­port states.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion on how the C-fund was gov­erned and man­aged is on­go­ing.”

The in­for­ma­tion ob­tained by the bug­ging devices was, the re­port says, passed on to “Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki, Min­is­ter Trevor Manuel, Com­mis­sioner Pravin Gord­han, Mr Ivan Pil­lay ... who were aware of the bug­ging”.

Hawks spokesper­son Hang­wani Mu­laudzi said: “It is a pity that there are cer­tain sec­tions of the pub­lic that are cre­at­ing political con­spir­a­cies on this mat­ter.

“When has send­ing ques­tions be­come ei­ther a con­spir­acy or a crim­i­nal act?

“We are very res­o­lute in main­tain­ing our man­date of in­ves­ti­gat­ing with­out fear or favour. Our coun­try needs to come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that, as the Hawks, we will not ask for per­mis­sion from any­one to do our job.

“Our vo­ca­tion is very chal­leng­ing and surely will ruf­fle feath­ers.

“Lastly, we want to re­ject the ac­cu­sa­tions that we leaked the in­for­ma­tion to the me­dia. We are a pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tion and keep all our in­ves­ti­ga­tions out of the clutches of the me­dia,” he said. From page 1

Angli­can Arch­bishop Thabo Mak­goba, who was briefed on Trea­sury affairs last week, said yes­ter­day: “The strug­gle over the use of pub­lic money we are see­ing in govern­ment should not be seen sim­ply as a fac­tional bat­tle within the rul­ing al­liance.

“Our coun­try faces a crit­i­cal moral turn­ing point: do we want a so­ci­ety in which the econ­omy grows for all, cre­at­ing jobs for mil­lions of our peo­ple and spread­ing wealth? Or do we want a so­ci­ety in which a small num­ber of po­lit­i­cally con­nected fam­i­lies ap­pro­pri­ate pub­lic re­sources for their own ben­e­fit and avoid pay­ing tax on their earn­ings?”

Weeks ahead of Nene’s shock ax­ing, friends of Zuma, whose names are known to City Press, reached out to two politi­cians, say­ing the “old man” wanted to make them fi­nance min­is­ter.

This ac­count was con­firmed to City Press by four sources, and has in­formed the be­lief that Trea­sury faces a “coup”.

Na­tional Trea­sury is con­tested ter­rain be­cause of its pow­er­ful Con­sti­tu­tional set-up. It is the only depart­ment that has an en­tire chap­ter in the Con­sti­tu­tion ded­i­cated to its work.

All money paid to the govern­ment goes through the na­tional rev­enue fund con­trolled by Trea­sury; all money bills are sim­i­larly run. Trea­sury can also stop the trans­fer of funds to an or­gan of state.

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