Are the Hawks diverting attention away from #GuptaLeaks?

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Cape Town – If the Hawks are diverting attention away from the #GuptaLeaks and other bigger issues regarding state capture allegations, it would create a dangerous precedent for our democracy going forward, according to political analyst Daniel Silke.

His warning comes after the Hawks told Bloomberg that they asked former finance minister Trevor Manuel and his former deputy Jabu Moleketi to provide affidavits on the creation of the special investigative at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, or Hawks, said it wanted the affidavits by Friday, so that it “can finalise this investigation”, spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told Bloomberg. The affidavits were ordered by a judge, it said.

It has been claimed that the Hawks’ continued questioning of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan regarding the SARS investigative unit is politically motivated. They sent him a warning letter regarding the issue in 2016, but he refused to appear before the Hawks to receive it.

After that, the National Prosecuting Authority charged and then dropped charges against Gordhan regarding the earlier retirement of SARS official Ivan Pillay, a move some thought was also politically motivated.

Now, there has been speculation that the Hawks are reviving the SARS investigation into the unit. However, Mulaudzi told eNCA on Thursday that the Hawks are not gunning for Manuel and Gordhan, both outspoken critics of President Jacob Zuma.

Silke said if they were gunning for the former finance ministers as part of a political battle, it would raise huge alarm bells.

“The Hawks, I would argue, look as though as they are trying to divert attention from the other bigger issue topics, such as the #GuptaLeaks emails and the other revelations emerging regarding state capture,” Silke told Fin24 on Thursday.

“We are seeing the potential of political usage of an agency like the Hawks to pursue a political agenda,” he said.

“Pursuing Gordhan and not pressing up on other challenges sounds like a political vendetta against Gordhan and others,” he said.

“It is incredibly demoralising for South Africans when prosecuting units are used for political forces and not used for equitable cases,” he said. “It creates a dangerous precedent for our democracy going forward.”

Well-orchestrated campaign

On Wednesday, Gordhan told Fin24 that claims of financial mismanagement of government's Integrated Financial Management System are part of a well-orchestrated campaign by the "Gupta syndicate".

He said it was an attempt to discredit and launch attacks "through the abuse of state institutions on those opposed to corruption and working for a renewal of the ANC so that we can once again earn the trust of citizens and ensure the ANC wins the 2019 elections".

"These malicious actions by this nefarious clique is a sign of desperation. This is also a very transparent and ridiculous attempt to shift the focus from the plentiful evidence existing in the Public Protector state capture report and the leaked emails of plain stealing of public resources, for which this clique must still account someday soon," said Gordhan.

He indicated that a more comprehensive reply can be expected next week.

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