Hands off Gord­han, hit the Hawks in­stead

Financial Mail - - FINANCIAL MAIL EDITORIALS -

As the Fi­nan­cial Mail was go­ing to print, re­ports emerged that the sup­pos­edly crime-fight­ing unit, the Hawks, had sum­moned fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, for­mer Sars com­mis­sioner Ivan Pillay and other for­mer Sars of­fi­cials to their of­fices this week to re­ceive “warn­ing state­ments”.

Warn­ing state­ments are typ­i­cally a pre­cur­sor to charg­ing some­one with a crime, and it is the drawn-out fra­cas about whether Sars ran a so-called “rogue unit” that is at the cen­tre of this.

It would be hard to imag­ine that Hawks head Berning Ntle­meza would be so fool­ish as to ac­tu­ally go ahead with charges against Gord­han, in par­tic­u­lar.

For a start, there has been zero ev­i­dence that Gord­han knew of a “rogue unit” that broke any rules. In re­ply­ing to the Hawks’ 27 ques­tions a few months back, Gord­han made this crys­tal clear.

He told Ntle­meza’s attack dogs that the Sikhakhane panel’s find­ing, that the unit’s ex­is­tence con­tra­vened the Na­tional Strate­gic In­tel­li­gence Act, “was wrong and based on a su­per­fi­cial and clearly mis­taken read­ing” of the law.

Gord­han said the unit was set up as an “es­sen­tial part of Sars’s en­force­ment strat­egy as it is with most tax and cus­toms ad­min­is­tra­tions glob­ally”. And, cru­cially, as far as he knew, the unit “law­fully per­formed its func­tions”.

We’ve said it be­fore, and we’ll say it again: given the paucity of ev­i­dence, the shoddy in­ves­tiga­tive work of the Hawks, and the in­di­ca­tions it is be­ing used as part of a fac­tional bat­tle within the ANC, Gord­han is be­ing un­fairly vic­timised. The very fact that this hap­pened only af­ter the elec­tion is tes­ta­ment to the fact that it’s a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated smear.

Per­haps it might not mat­ter to the ve­nal politi­cians di­rect­ing things from the shadows, but the rand tum­bled 1.6% in the af­ter­math of the re­port — be­fore any con­fir­ma­tion from the au­thor­i­ties.

In this con­text, if any crime has been com­mit­ted against the state, it is by the Hawks. Gord­han should be left alone, once and for all.

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