A move by the Hawks to bring Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in for questioning has put the rand on the skids again.
Markets reacted with shock yesterday as news broke that Gordhan, former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay‚ group executive Johann van Loggerenberg‚ spokesman Adrian Lackay and initial investigative unit head Andries van Rensburg had been told to report to the Hawks offices tomorrow.
Treasury spokesman Phumza Macanda confirmed that Gordhan had been in contact with the Hawks.
“[The] minister received correspondence from the Hawks yesterday. He’s currently taking legal advice and reserving comment at this stage,” Macanda said.
The Hawks are investigating the establishment of an alleged “rogue unit” at the revenue service when Gordhan was its head in 2007.
It is understood that Gordhan will present himself to lead investigator Brigadier Nyameka Xaba, who heads the crimes against the state unit, at the Hawks offices at 10am tomorrow.
He will be asked to give a statement about the “rogue unit” and its activities, including the spying allegations levelled against it.
Despite Gordhan’s office confirming the communication, Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said he knew nothing about the written correspondence.
The rand fell nearly 3% yesterday and was 2% weaker by 5.30pm, fuelling fears of events that could spark a new crisis for the economy.
On August 10, after the successful local government elections, the rand hit 13.20 to the dollar, its best performance this year.
It is not the first time that the Hawks have asked Gordhan for information. Days before he was to present his 2016 budget, he was sent a list of 27 questions about the “rogue unit”.
At the time the Hawks said they had no intention of investigating Gordhan and that he was merely the “suitable man to talk to”.
In his response to the Hawks’ 27 questions, Gordhan said that all the legal advice he had received was that the establishment of the unit was legal.
He said it was an essential part of the institution’s enforcement strategy and that, as far as knew, it had performed its functions legally.
He said if any of the unit’s members had broken the law, they had done so without his knowledge.
The Hawks’ new pressure on Gordhan coincides with President Jacob Zuma’s attempt, reported this week, to reassert his authority over state-owned companies after the ANC’s worst election showing.