The Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law (FUL) are taking the elite crime-fighting unit, the Hawks, to court over their controversial probe into Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan.
The probe into Gordhan is seen by some as a ploy to force him out of his Government position.
“Somebody needs to stop this; we are taking this matter to court. We are showing our support for the minister and his former colleagues at the South African Revenue Services (Sars) and our outrage at this attack on them,” FUL Chairperson and retired judge Johann Kriegler said.
In what they call harassment on Gordhan, the two organisations believe that there was no prima facie case against the minister. Gordhan and two former Sars officials have been identified as suspects in an investigation into the nature and conduct of a now disbanded Sars intelligence-gathering unit. But he has been the prime target of a Hawks investigation into the work of what is sometimes called the “rogue unit”. Gordhan and his former colleagues, Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg were summoned to appear at the Hawks’ headquarters in Pretoria today.
But Gordhan, who used to be the head of Sars, has refused to appear before the Hawks for questioning.
The Presidency says President Jacob Zuma does not have the powers to stop any investigations into any individuals. This is in response to calls from individuals and organisations for the president’s intervention.
“President Zuma wishes to express his full support and confidence in the minister of finance and emphasises the fact that the minister has not been found guilty of any wrong doing,” said presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga in a statement.
But Kriegler said while the President’s support for Gordhan was needed, more needed to be done to protect the finance minister. “I understand his position, and the presidency support is commendable, but somebody must stop this.”
Meanwhile, the Helen Suzman Foundation Director Francis Antonie , blamed the presidency for allowing head of the Hawks Lieutenant-General Berning Ntlemeza to investigate Gordhan. Antonie said, “Ntlemeza was slammed by Pretoria High Court Judge Elias Matojane, who described him as lacking integrity and honour. How can he be allowed to investigate the most respected ministry in South Africa?” He added that there was no prima facie evidence against Gorhan.
Antonie said recent reports have suggested corrupt motives involving massive sums of money and tension between the Presidency and the Treasury. “But we do not have to speculate. Most disturbing of all is that none of those now being publicly humiliated was never given a proper opportunity to answer the charges in the course of the one-sided investigations of unsubstantiated allegations. Dragging in the minister is outrageous, it’s affecting his reputation,” he said.