Johannesburg - Voices from inside and outside the ANC alliance have rallied in support of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan after revelations Hawks were training their sights on him.
While ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe reacted first to the news that Gordhan had been sent three pages of questions by the Hawks probing his knowledge of an alleged “rogue” intelligence unit at Sars, where he was the commissioner, followed by a statement from President Jacob Zuma expressing his “full confidence” in the minister, the SACP was expected to discuss the matter at its central committee meeting this weekend and also give Gordhan its backing.
Read: Hawks back off Gordhan
Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba added his voice on Saturday, saying he wished to “pledge my support” to Gordhan and “his efforts to bring the use of public finances under proper control”.
He welcomed the statements of support for the minister from Zuma and Mantashe.
“The struggle over the use of public money we are seeing in government should not be seen simply as a factional battle within the ruling alliance,” Makgoba said.
“Our country faces a critical moral turning point: do we want a society in which the economy grows for all, creating jobs for millions of our people and spreading wealth? Or do we want a society in which a small number of politically connected families appropriate public resources for their own benefit and avoid paying tax on their earnings?”
He said people of faith had no choice but to support those “working for the common good”.
The fight against “state capture”, including Sars and state-owned companies, was also expected to top the agenda at the SACP central committee meeting, which sources said would back Gordhan and advise him not to respond to the questions from the Hawks.
A senior SACP source suggested the letter to Gordhan was part of attempts to “deal with him” after his appointment was forced on Zuma following the shortlived term of David van Rooyen.
Also read: Hawks letter ruffles Gordhan’s feathers
Speaking to Independent Newspapers this week, Gordhan said state capture resulted in basic control mechanisms being lost. “Those driving a particular deal have no resistance, no accountability, no transparency and no oversight over what happens and it’s a potential disaster if we move in that direction.
“That is why we are saying state control and state regulation is only one part of the recipe, the bigger part of the recipe is the public needs to hold these people to account, the bigger part of this situation is business morality in South Africa needs to change and the ethical framework we work with needs to change.
“How can you be comfortable in your skin if you are actually depriving a state entity of billions of rands which could ultimately benefit poor people in South Africa and deprive those people?”
The matter is understood to have featured prominently in the political report of SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and subsequent discussions on the matter.
Gordhan’s no-nonsense approach towards the likes of Eskom is seen as important in the battle against the state capture issue that has become top of the SACP agenda.
The party was among the first to raise the matter at the ANC national executive committee lekgotla in January, when its second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila raised concerns about how some people outside government wereinfluencing decisions in government and state-owned enterprises.
A senior SACP leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was a real concern that the Gupta family were not only seen to be too close to Zuma and his family, but had a stranglehold on various ANC leaders who had their own interests.
These, according to the leader, included the so-called premier league, which comprises three ANC provincial chairmen – North West chairman Supra Mahumapelo, Free State’s Ace Magashule and Mpumalanga’s David Mabuza.
On Friday, Mantashe dubbed the letter from the Hawks and leaking of the questions sent to Gordhan a “well calculated destabilisation plan with all the elements of disinformation, falsehoods and exaggerated facts”.
But Zuma poured scorn on this view, saying the idea there was a conspiracy against Gordhan was “gossip and rumours”.
However, the president also expressed his full confidence in the minister and his Treasury team.
A government source, who did not wish to be named, said Zuma was in a difficult position because he could not order the Hawks to stop an investigation or summarily fire Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, as Gordhan seemed to want him to do.
“This is the situation that the president finds himself in, that regardless of how much he likes the minister, he can’t stop a law-enforcement agency.
“The minute he starts stopping law-enforcement agencies from asking for information from any minister then the country is in trouble,” the source said.
The Hawks, meanwhile, have denied there is an investigation into Gordhan or even a complaint against him.
It said the questions, which revolved around the “rogue” unit, the alleged irregul ar reappointment of Ivan Pillay as deputy Sars commissioner and allegations the Sars unit monitored conversations of the National Prosecuting Authority, had merely sought clarity.
The questions bear a close resemblance to issues raised in a purported report by KPMG on the Sars unit which was leaked to some media and widely reported on.
Moyane, who commissioned the KPMG probe, has said he would release the report soon, but his spokesman, Sandile Memela, did not respond to questions on whether Sars had provided the report to the Hawks or laid a complaint against Gordhan.
The two men have been at loggerheads over the leaking of information from Sars which suggested the unit had engaged unlawfully in covert intelligence operations, spied on senior politicians and run a brothel, among others.
Gordhan also instructed Moyane to halt a restructuring drive he began shortly after his appointment, but he has defied this instruction.
The minister insisted on Friday the unit’s work had always been conducted within the Sars policy and legal framework.
Economist Dr Iraj Abedian said this was not the time to launch an investigation into the finance minister on dubious grounds as it would undermine his efforts to restore confidence in the economy.
Businesspeople he had been trying to persuade to invest would now adopt a “wait-and-see” approach to assess which way the wind was blowing.
DA spokesman on finance David Maynier said only a judicial commission of inquiry could uncover the truth.
He would write to Zuma asking him to establish an inquiry in terms of Section 84 of the constitution to investigate all the allegations surrounding the Sars “rogue unit”.