Hands off Gordhan, hit the Hawks instead
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.