Thulas Nxesi questioned the Hawks' behaviour.

Johannesburg - The gloves are off in the government after another cabinet minister backed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in his war with the Hawks.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, who is also the SACP deputy national chairperson, entered the fray when he questioned the manner in which the Hawks were investigating Gordhan.

His public defence of the finance minister follows that of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Gordhan is locked in a battle with the Hawks and is also involved in another fight with state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The Hawks have been trying to get him to answer questions about his involvement with the so-called rogue unit at the SA Revenue Service during the time he was head of the agency.

The unit is said to have spied on politicians.

Nxesi defended Gordhan over the weekend while addressing the SACP provincial conference in Mpumalanga.

The fight is intensifying at a time when Gordhan is preparing for the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement that is due next month.

He has remained mum about his political future, saying it was President Jacob Zuma's prerogative to hire and fire ministers.

But last week in Parliament, he took a hard line against corruption in the government, vowing to clamp down on graft against the Gupta family or any senior figures and entities.

Gordhan said his investigation into SOEs was in line with his duties as prescribed by the constitution.

A few weeks ago, Co-operative Governance Minister Des van Rooyen attacked Gordhan in Durban. He said the finance minister was not above the law and urged him to co-operate with the Hawks.

This flew in the face of appeals by Ramaphosa for all sides to cease fire.

At the Mpumalanga SACP conference, Nxesi said the Hawks' conduct against Gordhan left much to be desired.

Nxesi told the conference that the SACP supported calls for an early conference for the ANC to discuss its loss of support in the local government elections.

He insisted that the conference was non-elective and aimed solely to discuss the ANC's poor showing in the municipal polls.

There are fears that the ANC could be in serious trouble in the 2019 national elections.

While the ANC Youth League has also called for an early ANC conference, the ANC Women’s League has rejected the idea.

Nxesi said such a meeting was necessary in order to look at what went wrong in the polls and find ways to get things right.