Finance minster Pravin Gordhan breaks the silence over reports of his alleged arrest by the Hawks for ‘espionage’, saying such reports are being manufactured for ulterior motives and has been extremely distressing for him and his family.
Speaking in a statement on Tuesday night over his alleged arrest, the minister said he was not aware of any charges or further investigations until the reports surfaced over the weekend
The weekend report has it that Gordhan was to be arrested for “espionage”, for his role in establishing an intelligence unit within the South African Revenue Service (SARS) while he was commissioner in 2007.
It said according to senior Hawks sources‚ the unit had handed over a case docket to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision to prosecute Gordhan and eight other former SARS officials said to have been involved in or have had knowledge of the unit’s activities.
To this he said he had answered the questions submitted by the Hawks‚ and has cleared himself from them but is yet to receive any information from them.
“I cannot believe that I am being investigated and could possibly be charged for something I am completely innocent of‚” Gordhan said in a statement on Tuesday evening. “I was not aware of any impending charges or further investigations until the reports in the past weekend‚” he added.
Gordhan said though no one is said to be above the law, he would not be subjected to the manipulation of the law and agencies for ulterior motives.
“Throughout my 45 years of activism, I have worked for the advancement of the ANC, our Constitution and our democratic government. I would never have thought that individuals within the very agencies of this government would now conspire to intimidate and harass me and my family,”
The minister however on several occasions declared he had executive authority to establish the investigative unit, and that it operated within the law while he was commissioner.
He also explained how he worked together with over ten thousand staff for a decade to transform SARS. “We built the revenue service into an efficient and effective institution that provided the increasing fiscal resources to enable government to provide social grants. SARS and the specialist investigative units therein operated within the law during my time as the Commissioner.”
Press reports made revelations of a “rogue” intelligence unit in SARS, which spied on politicians and ran covert operations. Several investigations have been conducted over the alleged “rogue unit” prior to a complaint being laid by SARS commissioner Tom Moyane with the Hawks in May last year.
Meanwhile, Gordhan said that he has already consulted his lawyers and they will be approaching the leadership of both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority for further information and clarity.
“It is particularly painful to me, and I’m sure to many earnest democrats, to witness this unrestrained attack on honest and hardworking people and the institutions meant to strengthen our democracy.
“Millions of people will pay the price (there will be less money to relieve poverty and support job creation programmes) if this subversion of democracy is left unrestrained and unchallenged,” said Gordhan as he appeal to South Africans to protect the National Treasury staff, who have diligently, honestly and skilfully served the national interest to the best of their ability. They are recognized worldwide for their professionalism and competence.