S.A anti-crime unit threatens to probe finance minister

South Africa’s special anti-crime unit, the Hawks, has threatened to exercise its constitutional powers to investigate Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over allegations about a “rogue unit” at the SA Revenue Services (SARS).

The Hawks, also known as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), issued the statement after Gordhan failed to meet the second deadline for answering questions regarding the “rogue unit”.

The “rogue unit” reportedly used millions of rand to spy on taxpayers.

Gordhan was SARS commissioner between 1999 and 2009, during which time the unit was established.

“Our legal team are forging a way forward which will see the Hawks exercising our constitutional powers,” Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said.

“The investigations will not be stalled by an individual who refuses to comply with the authorities and demand a preferential treatment,” Mulaudzi said.

On Feb. 19, the head of the Hawks Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza sent a letter to Gordhan. The letter contained questions which the minister had to answer before 16:00 on 1 March.

The finance minister informed the Hawks that he needed more time and certain clarifications before he could respond to their questions.

Then the Hawks set March 14 as the second deadline. Gordhan, however, said he was not aware of the letter sent to him, according to Hawks.

“We find it very disturbing when the minister is adamant that he never saw a letter with March 14 as his second deadline to answer questions,” Mulaudzi said.

Mulaudzi said Gordhan’s attorneys received the letter dated March 7, and acknowledged the receipt of the letter with the 14 March as his new deadline.

Gordhan had suggested that the Hawks had leaked the letters, and should call a press conference and talk about the matter at hand, according to Mulaudzi.

“This is neither a talk-show nor a soapie. We are mandated to investigate without fear, favour or prejudice, and there is nowhere in the constitution wherein calling a press conference has been mentioned as another means of conducting investigations,” said Mulaudzi.

Xinhua/Nnenna.O