It's Game On, Round One: Hawks' letter to Pravin Gordhan
- Marianne Thamm
- South Africa
- 25 Feb 2016 08:38 (South Africa)
At a media briefing this week after delivering his budget speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan remarked that if he still occupied his position in October he had political support and if not, he didn't. While rumours have been circulating that the Hawks were preparing to charge former senior SARS officials as well as Gordhan in relation to a “rogue unit”, it has now emerged that the Hawks have indeed sent a letter to Gordhan in an attempt to establish his “culpability” in the establishment of the unit. There is now no doubt that, behind the scenes, Gordhan has become a target. By MARIANNE THAMM.
Earlier this week Daily Maverick received information that the Hawks as well as the Crimes Against the State unit, were in the process of preparing to charge several high-ranking former SARS officials, including former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and group executive Johan van Loggerenberg. Pravin Gordhan too, we were informed, was in the Hawks' cross-hairs.
Our source informed us that Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, had personally ordered arrest warrants for Pillay and Van Loggerenberg. We asked the NPA's Advocate Luvuyo Mfaku whether the Crimes Against the State Unit were indeed investigating the matter, whether Advocate Jiba had indeed ordered warrants or whether the Hawks or the NPA were preparing to charge officials. The following morning Advocate Mfaku replied that the allegations “are baseless” adding that only a magistrate could issue a warrant for arrest.
Van Loggerenberg told the Daily Maverick that while he had also heard rumours that the Hawks might want to charge both him and Pillay, he had not received any communication from the unit or the NPA.
On Thursday, Netwerk24 journalist Pauli Van Wyk revealed that three sources had confirmed to the publication that two weeks ago the Hawks sent a letter to Finance Minster Pravin Gordhan “cross examining” him on the alleged “rogue unit” in SARS. Gordhan had not yet replied to the letter and was consulting lawyers.
Van Wyk also writes that the prosecution of several senior former SARS members “was inevitable”. Officials to be targeted were Pillay, Van Loggerenberg and Andries “Skollie” Janse van Rensburg (the first head of the SARS National Research Unit). She also writes that NPA head Shaun Abrahams is “directly involved” in a serious attempt to prosecute these officials. Advocate Mfaku told Van Wyk that the dossier had not been handed to the NPA for a decision and that he could not comment.
The investigation into Pillay is in relation to an alleged 2007 “Operation Sunday Evenings” during which the alleged “rogue unit” had bugged the offices of the National Prosecuting Authority during the investigation into former police chief Jackie Selebi.
Gordhan, shortly after his reappointment in December, lashed out at apparent findings by auditing firm KPMG that a “rogue unit” had existed.
“How would you like to be accused of something on the basis of a document that hasn’t been put to you or on the basis of questions that haven’t been put to you, on the basis of no opportunity being given to you to say what the facts of the matter are?” Gordhan told the media.
Gordhan also lashed out at KPMG saying “Where is this mysterious report? And KPMG’s got a cheek to say he doesn’t know anything about it. According to what I’ve read but he should have known. Wow! I think forensic people are supposed to come up with facts. What does this say about the reputation of KPMG?”
In the meantime the report has been handed to SARS Commissioner, Tom Moyane, but with a proviso that is findings may not be used “for the resolution or disposition of any disputes or controversies thereto and is not to be disclosed, quoted or referenced, in whole or in part”.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Moyane and Gordhan is at an apparent breaking point. Gordhan has instructed Moyane to suspend his current restructuring of SARS and Moyane, for the first time in the country's democratic history, was not present as Gordhan delivered his budget speech this week.
There are also unconfirmed rumours that Gordhan had informed the ANC caucus this week that either he or Moyane “had to go”.
October is a mere eight months away, a lifetime in politics, but Gordhan's statement about his political survival belies the winner-take all battle that appears to be brewing behind the scenes.
Also, President Jacob Zuma's peculiar statement three days ago that our four-day Minister of Finance, Des van Rooyen “was the best qualified Finance Minster ever” and that he was Zuma's “comrade. MK for that matter” should serve as a red flag.
At present Pravin Gordhan serves as the country's centre of power, a situation that makes many extremely uncomfortable. DM
Photo: South Africa's Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gestures during his budget speech in this picture provided by the Government Communications and Information Systems in Cape Town February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Kopano Tlape/Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS)