FINANCE minister Pravin Gordhan has ruled out resigning and called the fraud charges against him merit-less, politically motivated and timed to destabilise the economy.
“It is most unfortunate that the Hawks have, once again, chosen to initiate legal proceedings at a moment that appears calculated to maximise the damage inflicted on the economic well-being of South Africans and essential processes of government.”
The prosecution was long expected but finally came a fortnight before the medium term budget statement and saw the rand lose 3.5 percent shortly after National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams said Gordhan, former South African Revenue Services (Sars) commissioner Oupa Magashula and senior revenue service official Ivan Pillay were due to appear in court on November 2.
The currency continued to weaken through the day, and revived fears of a credit rating downgrade.
But Gordhan says he would comply with all legal requirements but accused the police of timing their decision to bring charges against him — two weeks before he makes the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement — in such a way it seemed designed to damage the economy, while President Jacob Zuma “affirmed his support” for him in a statement issued on Tuesday night, but didnot say whether he would bow to calls to intervene in the minister’s legal woes.
Gordhan’s lawyer Tebogo Malatji said the minister was facing a moving target as the fraud charge was different to matters the Hawks have wanted him to answer to.
“It defies all logic for us on what basis the minister could possibly have been guilty of fraud given the facts that are in the public domain relating to all the matters that the Hawks would have been investigating,” he said.
“We do not believe they’ll be able to establish the elements of a crime.”
The opposition Democratic Alliance called the NPA’s decision to prosecute a trusted finance minister “disastrous” while the Chamber of Mines expressed its concern and said it would raise reservations about the abuse of state institutions for political ends with Zuma.
Magashula, Gordhan and Pillay will be arraigned for the following: “fraud in respect of the R1 141 178 whereby the aforementioned persons had misrepresented to the government employment pension fund and to SARS that Mr Pillay was entitled to full pension benefits… whereas in fact the severance package was not applicable to Mr Pillay”.
The minister received the outspoken support of ANC Chief Whip and National Executive Committee colleague Jackson Mthembu who told reporters in Parliament he had great respect for “Comrade PG” and believed he was an honest man and “wonderful minister”. – ANA