Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s lawyers have released a media statement to set the record straight about his cooperation with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), better known as the Hawks.
Gildenhuys Malatji Attorneys, acting on behalf of Gordhan, said in the statement he had adhered to the law and cooperated fully with the Hawks since he received a letter from them in February requesting answers to 27 questions relating to the covert intelligence unit he was accused of establishing while he was commissioner at the South African revenue service (Sars).
The law firm said Gordhan “fully and comprehensively answered them on March 30, 2016, despite the fact that he was not obliged to do so”.
The statement also said the embattled minister was given assurance by Hawks head Major-General Berning Ntlemeza they were not investigating charges against him and that he was not a suspect in a letter dated May 20, 2016.
However, his lawyers received a letter “out of the blue” on August 22, 2016, summoning the minister to present himself to the Hawks offices in Pretoria to make a warning statement about two matters.
The letter was released to the media and “created much speculation that the minister was about to be arrested”, Gildenhuys Malatji Attorneys have said.
The warning statement – which is often a precursor to charges being brought against a suspect – related to the spy unit and an early retirement package and reappointment, Gordhan is said to have approved in contravention of legislation for the former deputy commissioner of the tax collection agency, Ivan Pillay.
Responding to the Hawks earlier this month Gordhan said: “I have nothing further to say in relation to these matters. If the Hawks, however, require any further assistance in good faith‚ I would be happy to assist.”
His lawyers said the Hawks had not responded to his offer of further assistance and on advice of senior counsel, in a letter to the Hawks on August 24, 2016: “We made the point that‚ on any version of the facts‚ the assertions of law on which the Hawks based their accusations against the minister were wholly unfounded and indeed scurrilous.
“The minister, however, instructed us to be as helpful as possible and to offer whatever further assistance the minister could provide the Hawks.”