Pretoria - Civil society groups have described the allegations of corruption made by the Hawks against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his former Sars colleagues as baseless.
"We believe we speak on behalf of all fair-minded South Africans, irrespective of political persuasion, in showing our support for the minister of finance and his former colleagues at Sars and our outrage at this attack on them," Freedom Under Law chairperson and former judge Johan Kriegler said.
"Not only are the charges baseless, but the manner in which they have been pursued is clearly calculated to besmirch the names of the individuals and has predictably already seriously impaired our national economy."
Kriegler said those behind the campaign of public vilification and persuasion must have known of this fact from the outset.
He said the office of the Hawks was being used to pursue the campaign. He also took the time to question Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza's fitness to hold office.
"We know that, whatever motives, the agency being primarily used to pursue the campaign is the Hawks, which is headed by a man whose appointment and fitness for office are currently being challenged in the courts. So is the hounding from office of his predecessor and the effective destruction of the senior command structure of not only the Hawks, but of IPID, and even more ominously, the NPA," said Kriegler.
He said it was disturbing that those being humiliated were not given a chance to answer the charges that were one-sided.
"Dragging in Minister Gordhan is all the more outrageous. The timing and the manner of the steps against him evidence ill-will towards a loyal public servant who together with the [former finance] minister [Trevor] Manuel and their team of reformers created arguably the most efficient government agency of the new South Africa. He does not deserve this. Neither do we," said Kriegler.
The Hawks have accused Gordhan of acting corruptly for granting early retirement to former deputy head of Sars Ivan Pillay and the creation of an intelligence unit within Sars.