Concern mounts as Hawks moves against Gordhan


Analysts say Zuma is playing cheap politics

pravin gordhan 21

By Lukman Akintola


Concern is mounting in South Africa at the moment over reports that the nation’s busty Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan may be charged this week for graft by the National Prosecuting Agency, aka the Hawks.

On Sunday, the City Press newspaper reported that plans to this effect had already reached an advanced stage and it cited for reference senior sources in the police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and the tax service.

According to it, thirty witnesses had been lined up to testify against Gordhan and three former officials from the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

 Meanwhile, Gordhan has reportedly defied a police summons to appear before it in connection with an investigation into an alleged “rogue spy unit” set up in the revenue service when he headed the organisation, arguing that the invitation was illegal.

According to the police however, the work of that unit had at that time had the direct effect of rattling South African markets and sending the rand down 5 percent.

The investigation first came to light in February and political pundits have said Gordhan is being undermined by a faction in the government and ruling African National Congress (ANC) allied to President Jacob Zuma.

Another point in the very high-wire controversy is that Gordhan is also expected to face a graft charge for granting early retirement to Ivan Pillay, a former commissioner of the South African Revenue Service who is also under investigation.

Sounding politically correct, Zuma had said on Thursday that he backed Gordhan but was powerless to stop a police investigation into him, signalling what analysts consider to be a prolonged tussle that could add to market volatility.

However, polity watchers say that in the calculation of the Zuma camp, a fight with Gordhan could only have the effect of reuniting the dispirited ANC forces who had only three weeks ago suffered a very humiliating trouncing in critical municipal polls. 

But even as the elephants fight, South Africa’s credit rating is set to be cut to junk status this year, according to a Reuters poll, with economists surveyed citing the heightened political risk around the Gordhan saga as a prominent catalyst.

Gordhan commands huge respect in the markets and his departure would be a serious blow to Africa’s most industrialised country, teetering as it is on the brink of recession. It is also expected to reverse gains made since his return to the Treasury, including South Africa’s reemergence as Africa’s largest economy calculated by GDP.

Confirming the crisis, The Sunday Times also reported that Gordhan had told a meeting of Treasury staff on Friday that he and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas could be removed in a cabinet shuffle.

Meanwhile the world waits for the next move even as Hawks leader, Major General Ledwaba has formally instructed Gordhan to provide a warning statement, with Gordhan effectively refusing to do so.

And issues are not being helped because many are seeing politics writing all over the subject.

Writes Safura Abdool Karim on GroundUp: ‘Given the protracted nature of this particular issue as well as the shifting focus, it is difficult to follow exactly what Gordhan is being accused of, or if he is even being accused of anything. A good place to start, in attempting to understand what is unfolding, is to look at what is being requested by the Hawks.’


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