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I’m not above the law, says Gordhan

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Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has rejected a new deadline given to him by the Hawks to answer 27 questions related to the establishment of the alleged “rogue spy unit” at the SA Revenue Services when he was still commissioner.

The deadline is 4pm on Monday.

Gordhan has also lashed out at the Independent Media group for “portraying me as a villain” through a story published by the Sunday Independent this week about the deadline to answer 27 questions from the Hawks.

Gordhan, who recently returned from the US and the UK on a roadshow to allay investors and rating agencies’ fears about the state of the country’s economy, told Independent Media on Sunday that he was not above the law and would answer the Hawks’ questions.

However, said Gordhan, the second deadline of 4pm on Monday was not achievable because of the work, including the roadshow, that the Treasury was doing to address the economic challenges and the legal issues that still need to be addressed related to the Hawks’ questions.

“This letter indicates the refusal of the police unit to state for the record the precise legislative provision in terms of which they are asking the questions; the deadline imposed is not achievable given the roadshow I was undertaking.

“In respect of the questions, once the legal matters have been clarified, I’ll respond to the questions in accordance with my lawyers’ advice.

“I am, like all South Africans, not above the law,” said Gordhan.

But the exchanges between Gordhan and the Hawks lay bare the extent to which tensions between various organs of the state and politicians have escalated. It has becomes apparent that Gordhan sees the Hawks’ pursuit of the questions and their investigation as part of attempts to curtail the work he is doing.

Also, to intervene in what has been referred to as the capture of the state by some interest groups and influential groupings like the controversial Gupta family.

At the centre of Gordhan’s discontent with Independent Media is a letter sent by the Hawks to him in which he is given until 4pm Monday afternoon to respond to questions about his knowledge and involvement in the alleged “rogue spy unit” set up by Sars officials when he was the commissioner of the tax body.

In the Sunday Independent’s story this weekend, an impression was created that the letter was recent and had given Gordhan an ultimatum to respond on Monday or face the consequences.

In the Sunday Independent story, Gordhan complained that “the story created the impression that the letter was recent”.

Independent Media has since established that the letter was in fact sent and received by the minister’s attorneys on March 3, and had been responded to by the minister’s attorneys, saying the deadline was “unachievable” because of the roadshow.

In a response to the letter from Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza, Gordhan reiterates his stance in questioning the legislative powers the Hawks are using to ask the 27 questions.

Ntlemeza, reported by the Sunday Independent, dismissed Gordhan’s questions about which powers he is using to ask the questions and referred the minister to the Act that established the Hawks.

Gordhan is to address the press on Monday.

[Source: IOL/The Star]
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