President Zuma’s appointment of Pravin Gordhan obviously brought smiles on the faces of many South Africans, especially the business community.
We will recall how the Rand had a free fall following the firing of ex-minister Nene and subsequent appointment of Zuma’s ‘quickie’ friend – Van Rooyen.
However, barely few months after Pravin’s appointment, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation‚ commonly known as the Hawks came knocking. Seeking to probe a unit [Rogue unit] which was set up when Pravin was SARS commissioner.
Now, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is not worried about the Hawks’ threats of an investigation but with the way the matter is being handled.
Pravin had earlier written to the Hawks that he would answer their 27 questions directed to him when he is ready because he wishes not to deviate from the job he is being paid for.
The Hawks in their letter said Pravin was the right man the team deemed fit to approach since he was once a finance minister when the contentious ‘rogue unit’ was established.
As it stands, it seems the Hawks’ threats has bashed the minister harder in a way he [Pravin] never liked or expected. Hence, he has cried out to all who care to listen, saying that he is being threatened by the Hawks.
The National Treasury issued a statement on behalf of the minister, part of the statement reads,
“The Minister would have liked to abide by the request of the Presidency and the ANC (as an NEC member) to not debate this matter publicly. However‚ once again the Hawks triggered a response because of their threatening statement.”
The statement further maintained that “Ideally‚ the minister will not be commenting any further. His focus remains on the vital work of the National Treasury.”
In what seemed like an unusual step‚ the Hawks publicly advised the Minister earlier on Tuesday that he would not be treated specially and that the investigation team would not be deterred by Pravin’s lack of co-operation.
“The investigations will not be stalled by an individual who refuses to comply with the authorities and demand a preferential treatment.”
Pravin failed to meet the initial deadline of March 1 because he was busy with the preparation of the National Budget. He however said he is yet to received the second letter‚ which set Monday 14 March as the deadline.
But Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said in a statement on Tuesday the unit was concerned about Gordhan’s statement that he had no knowledge of the letter sent to him‚ stating 4pm on March 14 as the deadline for answering the questions.
Mulaudzi said acknowledgement of the second letter was received by Gordhan’s lawyers.
“The Hawks do not engage people on public space but the Minister has left us no choice but to clear the air‚ set the record straight and restore public’s trust on us as an elite crime fighting unit‚” he said.
“…Had the minister‚ like any law-abiding citizen‚ complied with our letter and provided answers‚ we would not be where we are today.
“This is neither a talk-show nor a soapie. We are mandated to investigate without fear‚ favour or prejudice,” Mulaudzi said.
Following this cold war between the minister and the investigation group, investors are terrified that “If it results in the removal of the finance minister, it speaks to even further institutional erosion in South Africa,” head of strategic research at Nedbank Group Ltd. Mohammed Nalla said.