South African elite police unit, the Hawks, said on Tuesday it would exercise its "constitutional powers" after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan failed to meet a second deadline to answer its questions, weakening the rand further.
"The minister, for whatever reasons, has failed to meet the SECOND deadline for answering questions and our legal team are forging a way forward which will see the Hawks exercising our constitutional powers," the Hawks said in a statement, see full statement below.
[Watch what Gordhan said yesterday /video/?ytid=xTsQ15lLXhU]
"The investigations will not be stalled by an individual who refuses to comply with the authorities and demand a preferential treatment."
The rand extended losses against the dollar after the Hawks statement, falling more than 2 percent to 15.93.
In response to the Hawks statement Treasury released the following:
MEDIA STATEMENT By Ministry of Finance
In respect of the statement released by The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), the following must be clarified:
The Sunday Independent story, created an impression that the Hawks had sent the Minister of Finance a “new letter” over the weekend and this was not responded to. This was totally misleading.
The last letter received from the Hawks is dated 3 March 2016. The minister’s legal representatives received it on 4 March 2016 and responded to it on 7 March 2016. That there is a letter that has not been responded to is factually incorrect.
Those who leaked the letter deliberately sought to mislead and malign the person of the minister.
Notwithstanding that the Hawks have not responded to minister’s lawyers’ representations for further clarity, the minister has nonetheless instructed his legal team to prepare an adequate response.
The Minister would have liked to abide by the request of the Presidency and the ANC (as an NEC member) to not debate this matter publicly. However, once again the Hawks triggered a response because of their threatening statement.
Ideally, the minister will not be commenting any further. His focus remains on the vital work of the National Treasury.
Media Statement from Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (HAWKS)
South African Police Service
Pretoria – The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), commonly known as the Hawks, has noted with concerns the utterances by the Minister of Finance Mr Pravin Gordhan that he was not aware of the letter sent to him, detailing the 14th March 2016 at 16:00 as his deadline for answering questions sent to him.
The Hawks do not engage people on public space but the Minister has left us no choice but to clear the air, set the record straight and restore public’s trust on us as an elite crime fighting unit.
On 19 February 2016 the National Head of the Hawks Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza sent a letter to Mr Pravin Gordhan. The letter contained questions which the Minister had to answer on or before 16:00 on 1 March 2016, so that we could continue with our investigations into the alleged rogue unit at SARS.
The minister received the letter, but instead of providing us with answers he sent us a written response via his legal representatives, Gildenhuys Malatji Attorneys.
In the letter the minister requested more time to answer questions, saying by the time he received the questions he was busy preparing the budget speech. The letter from his attorney was received by this office on 1 March 2016, approximately an hour before his 16:00 deadline.
In the letter from his attorney, the minister did not mention how much time he needed to answer the questions, and as a result another letter was written to his attorneys on 3 March 2016.03.15
The letter it was received, stamped and the acknowledgement of receipt was signed by one Josephine at the reception desk of Gildenhuys Malatji Attorneys at 08:40.
We find it very disturbing when the minister is adamant that he never saw a letter with 14 March 2016 as his SECOND deadline to answer questions.
This office also received a letter from his attorneys dated 07 March 2016, acknowledging the receipt of our letter with the 14 March as his new deadline. The letter also stated that the minister had left the country to the USA and the UK, saying the “imposed deadline of 14 March 2016 was not achievable and that the minister would be able to respond as soon as he returned from overseas”.
We would also like to mention that the minister, through the letter from his attorneys, questioned the authority of the National Head of the Hawks and was duly referred to the powers of the DPCI in Chapter 6A of the South African Police Service Act.
As for the minister suggesting that the Hawks had leaked the letters and should call a press conference and talk about the matter at hand, we would like to set the record straight as well, that had the minister, like any law-abiding citizen, complied with our letter and provided answers, we would not be where we are today.
This is neither a talk-show nor a soapie. We are mandated to investigate without fear, favour or prejudice and there is nowhere in the constitution wherein calling a press conference has been mentioned as another means of conducting investigations.
The minister, for whatever reasons, has failed to meet the SECOND deadline for answering questions and our legal team are forging a way forward which will see the Hawks exercising our constitutional powers.
The investigations will not be stalled by an individual who refuses to comply with the authorities and demand a preferential treatment.
No further comments will be made on this matter.