President Jacob Zuma has given reassurances that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will remain in his position.
The Presidency has released a second statement responding to reports of friction between him and Gordhan, saying reports of a “war at Sars” and a “war” between him and Gordhan were “a total fabrication and mischievous sensationalism”.
This followed revelations last week that the police’s elite crime-fighting unit, the Hawks, sent a list of questions to Gordhan about a secret unit in Sars which was established under his watch. Gordhan has implied the Hawks investigation was malicious.
Zuma said some reports insinuated that Gordhan’s position “could be in jeopardy”, but said he wanted to “emphasise that Minister Gordhan remains the Minister of Finance and any positing that the position of the Minister is under threat is dismissed with the contempt it deserves”.
Despite reports in the Mail & Guardian and other newspapers over the weekend that Gordhan wanted Sars commissioner Tom Moyane to resign, Zuma said there were legal processes that had to be followed for this to happen.
“Media reports demanding that the president should summarily dismiss the Sars commissioner or interfere with the work of government agencies are unhelpful. There are prescripts within government which stipulate the processes to be utilised to resolve labour relations issues or disputes within the work environment,” the presidency said.
Zuma, however, did not deny the friction between Gordhan and Moyane.
“The difficulty in the relationship between the Minister of Finance and the Sars commissioner is being dealt with through the correct channels using the correct legal prescripts.”
Zuma said he started discussions with Gordhan and Moyane on this “long before the State of the Nation Address and Budget 2016”.
He said: “Measures are being put in place to address the issues responsibly and amicably, for the benefit of all. We urge interested parties to exercise calm and restraint and allow space for the matters to be resolved using correct channels.”
Questions from the Hawks
The value of the rand dropped after various role players spoke publicly about the fights in the Treasury on Friday.
Gordhan confirmed that he received a letter from the Hawks four days before his crucial budget speech, questioning him about his tenure at Sars.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe expressed concern over the Hawks’ conduct and said there were “initiatives” that wanted to reverse the gains the economy has made that would have a “destabilising effect in the long term”.
In his statement on Friday, Gordhan said “the letter from the Hawks is an attempt by some individuals who have no interest in South Africa, its future, its economic prospects and the welfare of its people.
“If necessary, I will take appropriate legal action to protect myself and the National Treasury from whatever elements seeking to discredit me, the institution and its integrity.”
Gordhan emphasised that he was appointed by Zuma and was serving at his pleasure.
This is the second statement by Zuma on the alleged fights within Treasury. In his statement on Friday he said reports on “some conspiracy against Minister Gordhan” were “baseless rumours and gossip” but, unlike Mantashe and Gordhan, he refused to comment on the Hawks investigation.