Cape Town - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is aware of plans to arrest him and is ready for the ongoing relentless struggle for control of state resources.
Five sources in the Treasury, the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) and Gordhan's informal "kitchen cabinet" said Gordhan will not allow himself to be intimidated, and that the onslaught by the state exploiters was to be expected.
"The future of the crime network that was allowed to flourish in the state is now under threat. They are now hitting back,” said one of the sources.
A second source said some prominent players in the private sector (who find themselves caught up in the conflict) have been warned to upgrade their personal safety.
This follows a Sunday Times report of plans to arrest Gordhan, as well as some of his former colleagues from the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and well-known state prosecutor Advocate Gerrie Nel on charges of "espionage".
Netwerk24, Fin24’s sister publication, has information that former finance minister Trevor Manuel is also being targeted.
A well-placed source, whose information has been corroborated by two other independent sources in Gordhan's kitchen cabinet and the Sarb, said Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said Gordhan, Manuel and others would be arrested.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor and Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande were the only ones to question Nhleko's motives.
Pandor denied the matter was discussed at Cabinet level and would not comment further, while Nzimande was unreachable. A senior member of the executive also denied it was discussed at Cabinet level.
Manuel said the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have not spoken to him. "I have no comment, except that the Constitutional Court confirmed on March 31 this year that we live in a constitutional democracy. For this reason, even they [the Hawks] must follow the correct procedure, simply because citizens have rights."
On Sunday the Presidency issued two statements in which it denied the rumours, blaming them on “information peddlers” who want to sow discord.
The Sunday Times reported that the latest threat to arrest Gordhan and his former colleagues stems from a Hawks investigation into alleged irregularities surrounding the Sars rogue unit.
The unit was established under Gordhan as commissioner of Sars and Manuel as finance minister.
The NPA would not confirm whether a decision to prosecute has already been taken, while the Hawks did not want to comment.
Hawks commander Berning Ntlemeza, along with State Security Minister David Mahlobo, is apparently in charge of the investigation.
These prosecutions would apparently be followed by a Cabinet shake-up in which Brian Molefe would be appointed as finance minister with Sifiso Buthelezi as his deputy, according to a source close to Gordhan and with knowledge of Treasury issues.
Molefe is the chief executive of embattled state power utility Eskom and Buthelezi is a new ANC MP.
A source told Netwerk24 that the NPA offered Helgaard Lombard and Johan de Waal, former members of the Sars investigation unit, a plea bargain to testify against Gordhan and others. They rejected the offer.
"The arrests should have been accompanied by a reshuffle where Molefe and Buthelezi would have been appointed. It was supposed to happen after the election, but can now be announced at any moment."
'Dominoes starting to fall'
Gordhan is apparently considering the threats as credible. "We expected this would happen and that the state exploiters would retaliate. The dominoes are now starting to fall."
According to the source - who has firsthand and direct knowledge of events in the Treasury - Gordhan reckons there is a positive to the latest developments: "It shows exactly to what extent the state is exposed to outside influence. The departure of the (Gupta) family to the Middle East does not mean the end of their interference or influence. "
Nine independent sources (including sources in Sars, Denel, the Hawks and the Financial Intelligence Centre) said Gordhan is now the number one enemy of rentseekers because of the unravelling of the patronage network established under President Jacob Zuma.
An order by Gordhan that all major government contracts must come across his desk is apparently threatening many vested interests.
"But Gordhan is unperturbed. He thrives in a crisis and will certainly not stand back. This only reinforces his determination," a Treasury source said.