South Africa’s Finance Minister said Wednesday he would not appear before police as part of their probe into a spy unit formed while he was the country’s top tax man.
Pravin Gordhan who was commissioner of South African Revenue Service (SARS) from 1999 to 2009 has faced allegations that the “rogue spy unit” spied on politicians, including the current President Jacob Zuma.
On Tuesday elite police investigators known as the Hawks summoned Gordhan and other former SARS officials to present themselves for questioning over the unit.
Gordhan said in a statement he had been advised that the was “under no obligation” to present himself to the police.
He acknowledged the existence of the unit, insisting that it was a legal body and its operations were in line with tax and customs rules.
“I therefore, do not intend to present myself for a warning statement for many considerations, both legal and given my other commitments,” he said in a statement.
“I have a job to do in a difficult economic environment and serve South Africa as best I can. Let me do my job.”
Investigators had earlier this year sent Gordhan a list of 27 questions to answer regarding the unit.
Gordhan said in a statement that if any of the members of the so called spy unit had engaged in “unlawful activities then they did do without my knowledge or consent.”
The news of the investigation into Gordhan has been widely criticised by opposition parties and economists, with some describing it as a political witch hunt.
The elite Hawks police unit has gained a reputation for being used to fight political battles. Gordhan is known for his tough talk against wasteful expenditure, something which has put him at odds with some top government officials.
A widely respected technocrat, Gordhan was finance minister from 2009 to 2014 before he was shifted to the cooperative governance portfolio.
In December 2015, he was recalled to the crucial finance ministry after the firing of the then minister Desmond van Rooyen.
News of the investigation has also hit the markets, with the rand falling 1.5 percent to 13.21 against the dollar.