Gordhan Answers Police Questions on South African Tax UnitRene Vollgraaff and Antony Sguazzin
Special unit in tax service functioned within law: Gordhan
Hawks threats and deadlines were unlawful, Gordhan says
South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has responded to questions from a special police unit known as the Hawks even as he insisted the law enforcement agency has no reason to investigate him and no authority to question him.
“My legal advice is that I am not obliged, under any law, to answer the questions sent to me by the Hawks, but I believe it is in the public interest that I provide them with information I have at hand,” Gordhan, 66, said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. “As a law-abiding citizen I have decided to cooperate fully.”
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation sent Gordhan 27 questions in February about a special unit that was established in the South African Revenue Service in 2007 under his watch as tax commissioner. Gordhan, who served as finance minister from 2009 until 2014 and was reappointed in December, initially refused to respond, questioning the Hawks’ authority to demand answers from him. The police said earlier this month it would force Gordhan to cooperate.
The dispute between the minister and the Hawks is part of a political struggle for control of the National Treasury, analysts including Pierre de Vos, a law professor at the University of Cape Town, have said. While Gordhan has asked for the head of the revenue service to be fired, President Jacob Zuma has not acceded to his demand.
Gordhan said on Wednesday that according to his legal advice, the establishment of the unit in SARS was lawful. The section performed its function within the law and it was funded through the normal budgetary processes applicable to the tax authority, he said.
“The Hawks declined to answer my questions seeking clarity on what offence they were investigating and by what authority they were acting,” Gordhan said. “The deadlines and threats of retaliation were accordingly unlawful.”
Hawks spokesman Hangwani Malaudzi said by phone the police unit will not make any public comments about the Gordhan matter.