Pravin speaks: Arrest ‘rumours’ distressing – appeals to SAns to protect Treasury

He embodies professionalism, if such a word can be associated with a politician. And you have to admire the way he’s handled all the talk of his ‘imminent arrest’. Gordhan’s statement below, two days after the rumours were fuelled, says he’s concerned that despite his 45 years fighting for the ANC, the Constitution and South Africa, there are factions conspiring to intimidate and harass him and his family. And this whole episode highlights the battle for Treasury, the importance of control over South Africa’s money handler, and more worrying the Revenue Service which does all the collecting. The immediate reaction from the Rand saw strength, which again shows the importance of the man, what he’s doing for a country that’s teetering on the edge of a cliff, and how the international community respect his actions. Junk status is a near reality, and if the collective don’t realise the implications of such, it’s high time they were all educated on the matter. Because it’s a long, hard slog if that bridge is crossed. In Pravin, hope springs.- Stuart Lowman

JOHANNESBURG, May 17 (Reuters) – South Africa’s finance minister said on Tuesday that reports of his imminent arrest were “extremely distressing”, calling them an attack on the Treasury and asking for its protection to help deliver economic growth.

South Africa's Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan gestures during a media briefing after he was reappointed to the position by President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
South Africa’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

In his first public comments on a report that said he faced arrest published in a Sunday newspaper, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said he had met with his lawyers and they would in turn meet with the elite police unit Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority for further information and clarity.

The report by South Africa’s Sunday Times quoted unidentified sources as saying that the finance minister faced arrest. The report was denied by the presidency, police and prosecutors.

The rand firmed nearly one percent to 15.4905 against the dollar – its highest intraday level – after Gordhan’s statement.

The Hawks have been investigating Gordhan’s role in the establishment of a spy unit within the tax collection service at a time when Gordhan was head of the revenue agency.

Gordhan has denied any wrongdoing and has called the investigation a smear campaign aimed at tarnishing his and the Treasury’s credibility.

“The recent media reports about my arrest – imminent or not – have been extremely distressing for my family and me,” Gordhan said in a statement released after the markets had closed.

He urged protection for Treasury staff whom he said had “served the national interest to the best of their ability”.

Media statement from the Finance Ministry

The recent media reports about my arrest – imminent or not – have been extremely distressing for my family and me. I cannot believe that I am being investigated and could possibly be charged for something I am completely innocent of.

I have answered the questions submitted by the Hawks, and have not heard from them. I was not aware of any impending charges or further investigations until the reports in the past weekend. It is indeed true, that no one is above the law. But no one should be subjected to the manipulation of the law and agencies for ulterior motives.

Read also: How world sees us: Gordhan going “would wreak complete chaos on SA markets”

Throughout my 45 years of activism, I have worked for the advancement of the ANC, our Constitution and our democratic government. I would never have thought that individuals within the very agencies of this government would now conspire to intimidate and harass me and my family.

I have met with my lawyers to obtain their advice. They will be approaching the leadership of both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority for further information and clarity.

I worked together with over ten thousand staff for a decade to transform SARS into a world class revenue and customs administration. We built the revenue service into an efficient and effective institution that provided the increasing fiscal resources to enable government to provide social grants. SARS and the specialist investigative units therein operated within the law during my time as the Commissioner. The malicious rumours and accusations about “espionage” activities are false and manufactured for other motives.

There have also been reports of businesspeople claiming inside knowledge of or influence over state institutions. If such reports are true, that alleged conduct will undermine the integrity and honesty within the Treasury or other key institutions.

It is particularly painful to me, and I’m sure to many earnest democrats, to witness this unrestrained attack on honest and hardworking people and the institutions meant to strengthen our democracy.

Millions of people will pay the price (there will be less money to relieve poverty and support job creation programmes) if this subversion of democracy is left unrestrained and unchallenged.

I appeal to all South Africans to protect the National Treasury staff, who have diligently, honestly and skilfully served the national interest to the best of their ability. They are recognized worldwide for their professionalism and competence.