Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - The “capture” of the Hawks under former boss Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza was central to the state capture project.

This is what Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan told the Zondo commission on Tuesday while giving his testimony in Parktown.

Gordhan used the example of a suspicious investigation that was conducted against him by the Hawks. He said in February 2016, days before the Budget Speech, he got a call from Ntlemeza who asked for a meeting which he agreed to. Ntlemeza told Gordhan that an investigation involving him was being conducted regarding "a SA Revenue Service (Sars) rogue unit" matter.

Ntlemeza later delivered to the Treasury an envelope containing 27 questions that Gordhan had to answer by March 2016. The charges against Gordhan were laid by then Sars commissioner Tom Moyane.

Gordhan said the questions were delivered by Ntlemeza days before the Budget Speech and were disruptive to preparations for the Budget Speech. 

He said that the investigation was a ploy and that there were efforts underway to force him to resign as finance minister by putting pressure on him.

Gordhan said it was clear that former president Jacob Zuma could not easily fire him as he did with former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015 and that a new plan was being made to remove him.

He said he showed Zuma the questions and all he did was “flip through the pages” and said he would speak to the minister of police at the time, Nathi Nhleko. He said he received no information from Zuma regarding this information.

“During that meeting, I rejected strongly to this persecution and I asked President Zuma whether political activists like myself must now prepare to be eliminated during the democratic era even though we have survived the oppression," said Gordhan.

He later had a meeting with some members of the ANC's Top Six, including Zweli Mkhize, Gwede Mantashe and Jessie Duarte, who promised him that a political solution would be found. 

The 27 questions were later leaked to the media and Gordhan believes this context matters as it was meant to disrupt public perceptions.

The inquiry continues.