Pretoria – The investigation into the alleged “rogue unit” at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is not targeted at Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan or any individual, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said on Wednesday.
Minister Nhleko, at a media briefing in Pretoria, confirmed that the police’s elite crime-fighting unit, the Hawks, had sent Minister Gordhan questions regarding the so-called “rogue unit” only to obtain clarity from him as he was in charge of SARS when the unit was formed.
“Questions being sent to certain people is merely part of the investigation; it isn’t anything new. They are questions of clarity and around this existence of a rogue unit,” he said.
Minister Nheko explained that the Hawks sent questions to individuals as part of their job and it did not necessarily mean the person will be charged.
Minister Gordon was given until today to deliver his responses to the Hawk’s questions but has asked for an extension of the deadline.
Minister Nhleko said the Hawks activated its investigation into the unit just after May 2015 when SARS reported the matter as a complaint with the police.
“We want to make a call that these investigations be respected.”
He said during the course of the investigation more people may be questioned by the Hawks.
Minister Nhleko said the investigation into the unit was nothing new and referred to the Sikhakhane Report which recommended that more investigations be done into the existence of such a unit as well as the KPMG investigation.
The unit was set up to be ring-fenced with the National Intelligence Agency, but became a unit on its own. It was established with 22 SARS members with intelligence background.
Minister Nhleko said over the years the unit procured intelligence-related equipment such as unit detection, eaves-dropping devices and signal jammers.
Over R1.6 million was spent by the unit between 2009 and 2014.
State Security Minister David Mahlobo said the equipment the unit procured needed to be investigated by the Hawks.
“[The] question is how this equipment was procured, who had them in their possession – this must be investigated by the Hawks,” he said, adding that not anyone can buy a jammer or surveillance equipment as the person needed to be properly authorised to possess such equipment.
Regarding the allegations that the investigation is a matter of President Jacob Zuma versus Minister Gordhan, Minister Nhleko said that it was “a perception that does not exist”.
On Monday, the Presidency also dismissed claims that there was a war at SARS. It said reports that President Zuma and the Minister are “somehow at war” are a “total fabrication and mischievous sensationalism”.
The Presidency said Minister Gordhan’s position was not under threat and that the difficulty in the relationship between him and the SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane was being dealt with through the correct channels, using the correct legal prescripts.