S. Africa’s Finance Minister Cooperated With Police, Lawyers Say

  • Gordhan refused to appear before police unit on Aug. 25
  • Docket from police sent to National Prosecuting Authority

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan cooperated fully the police on the probe into the investigative unit that he set up when he led the state tax agency, according to his lawyers.

The minister has denied any wrongdoing and decided not to present himself at the offices of the Hawks special police unit on Aug. 25 to make a warning statement because he wasn’t required to do so by law, Gordhan’s legal team, Gildenhuys Malatji, said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. Gordhan, 67, responded to the inquiry in a statement and had offered further assistance to the investigating unit.

“The assertions of law on which the Hawks based their accusations against the minister were wholly unfounded and indeed scurrilous,” the lawyers said. It was “absurd to invite the minister to make a warning statement. He had already given a full account of his side of the story.”

Gordhan’s fate is now in the hands of the National Prosecuting Authority, which has received a docket from the Hawks. President Jacob Zuma has been at loggerheads with the minister over Gordhan’s requests to fire the nation’s tax chief for insubordination and to replace the board of the loss-making state airline. The political turmoil has put the nation’s investment-grade credit status at risk.

The “handling of the matter seemed to have been designed to trigger a media event to humiliate the minister,” the lawyers said. “The minister has thus scrupulously obeyed the law at all times. He has fully co-operated with the Hawks.”

While African National Congress Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe urged Gordhan to cooperate with the police investigation, he also criticized the way the police handled the case.

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