Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says if reports are true that a South African Revenue Service (SARS) employee was held hostage‚ it is “totally unacceptable behaviour“.
He was responding to a question from Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier on Thursday‚ during a joint sitting of the finance and appropriations committees to discuss Wednesday’s Mid Term Budget Policy Statement.
A video clip and media reports on Thursday indicated that SARS deputy director of law‚ Vlok Symington‚ had been locked in a boardroom in the SARS head office while the Hawks‚ and SARS boss Tom Moyane’s body guards attempted to get him to make an affidavit in the fraud case against Gordhan.
Many African National Congress members in the meeting heckled Maynier while he asked the question‚ saying that it had nothing to do with the budget. However‚ Gordhan offered to answer.
He said he had heard “whispers” regarding the incident and had been told that it had been in the news.
“But I have had no formal report. I will ask Tom Moyane for an explanation as soon as I get a chance. If it is true‚ that is totally unacceptable behaviour.”
Symington was the author of the 2009 legal opinion which the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law used to file an application to the Pretoria High Court requesting that the fraud charges against Gordhan be set aside. In that opinion‚ he states that there was “no technicality” stopping SARS from reappointing former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay on a contract basis after an early retirement payout.
Gordhan also responded to another question by Maynier‚ about whether the institutional independence of the Treasury was under threat‚ saying that much like “the treasurer of a soccer club” or Parliament‚ “when you have money in your hands‚ someone wants it“.
The minister reiterated his calls in Wednesday’s budget for a concentrated focus on inclusive growth and called on Parliament and its committees to play its part in ensuring that this happened by among other things‚ holding state owned entities to account‚ and supporting the growth of small businesses.
– TMG Digital/Parliamentary Bureau