Hawks seeks affidavit from Manuel over SARS unit

Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. (Pic: Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)
Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. (Pic: Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Johannesburg - The Hawks told former finance minister Trevor Manuel and his one-time deputy, Jabu Moleketi, to provide affidavits on the creation of a special investigative unit in the South African Revenue Service (SARS) that allegedly spied on politicians.

The Hawks wants the affidavits by Friday so “we can finalise this investigation,” spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said by phone on Wednesday. The affidavits were ordered by a judge.

Before President Jacob Zuma fired him as finance minister in March, Pravin Gordhan said the the tax agency unit, set up a decade ago when he was head of the revenue authority, acted within its mandate.

The National Prosecuting Authority has been probing the unit in an investigation that Gordhan, opposition parties and civil-society groups say is politically motivated.

Questioning Manuel and Moleketi about the investigative unit raises the chances that the police may move to charge Gordhan, who has become a vocal critic of the president and is seen as part of a faction that is seeking his removal from office.

“It is true that the Hawks have requested the pleasure of my company,” Manuel said by phone Wednesday. “I don’t know what it is exactly they want to talk to me about as I am abroad.”

A call to Moleketi seeking comment went immediately to voicemail. Manuel served as South African finance minister between 1996 and 2009.

Gordhan, who may also be investigated over alleged mismanagement of an IT contract while he was in charge of the Treasury, dismissed the latest moves as a renewed attempt to discredit politicians who are fighting against the plunder of state resources.

Charges announced in October against Gordhan relating to an early-retirement payment for a tax agency official were dropped two weeks later when prosecutors decided there was no case.

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