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Gordhan battle: SA staring down edge of economic abyss

Aug 24 2016 19:11

Cape Town - Attacks on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan by the Hawks threaten to devastate the economy, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) said in an open letter to President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday.

BLSA is an independent association whose members represent South African big business leadership and major multinational investors.

It said South Africa made great progress over the last eight months to stave off a ratings downgrade to junk status but that the country stands once more on the edge of an abyss.

"We urge you to act to preserve the unity and progress we have achieved since December by ensuring an end to the harassment, intimidation, and undermining of the leadership of our most important economic governance institutions," BLSA said.

More on Gordhan:

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Open letter to President Jacob Zuma: Hands off Gordhan

FULL STATEMENT: Why Gordhan won't meet the Hawks

"On the economic front, your State of the Nation speech and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget, together with CEO led initiatives and joint action between government, business and labour, have begun to restore investor confidence in South Africa. On the political front, the free, fair, and effective conduct of our municipal elections has strengthened our democracy."

It said the dignified acceptance of results by both winners and losers is clear evidence to the world that the South Africa has a strong, functioning constitutional democracy.

"The highly transparent and inclusive process of selecting our country's new Public Protector has provided further evidence of the strength of our constitutional institutions."

However, it warned that all this progress is threatened by the possible charge, or even arrest, of Gordhan.

Gordhan and other former SA Revenue Service officials must meet the Hawks on Thursday to receive a letter of warning (which precedes an official charge) regarding an investigation unit set up when Gordhan was Sars commissioner from 1999 to 2009.

But Gordhan said on Wednesday that he will not appear at the Hawks office to obtain a warning statement.

"I have since taken legal counsel.... I am advised that I am under no legal obligation to present myself to the Hawks as directed in their letter. I have decided not to do".

BLSA said the Hawks investigation of Gordhan "lacks any legitimacy or credibility".

"It is shocking that our national collective effort to avoid a ratings downgrade and to restore inclusive economic growth is now being so insidiously subverted.

"If this sinister behaviour is allowed to continue the consequences will be devastating for our economy, and will fatally undermine our national efforts to address poverty, inequality, and unemployment," he warned.

BLSA suggested that if there is to be an investigation into this issue that it should rather be conducted by a credible institution such as the Public Protector.

Listen to the clip by Gordhan declaring that he will not appear before the Hawks:

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