Finance minister Pravin Gordhan says reports of his imminent arrest have been extremely distressing for him and his family.
He said in a statement on Tuesday that he was not aware of any charges or further investigations until the reports surfaced over the weekend.
The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the Hawks wanted Gordhan and eight others to be charged with espionage, for spying on taxpayers during his time as South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner.
“The malicious rumours and accusations about ‘espionage’ activities are false and manufactured for other motives,” said Gordhan.
“I cannot believe that I am being investigated and could possibly be charged for something I am completely innocent of.”
Gordhan said he responded to the 27 questions, sent to him on the eve of the budget speech, posed by the Hawks.
“I have answered the questions submitted by the Hawks, and have not heard from them.”
The finance minister noted that although no one is above the law, he said no one should be subjected to the manipulation of the law and agencies for ulterior motives.
“Throughout my 45 years of activism, I have worked for the advancement of the ANC, our constitution and our democratic government. I would never have thought that individuals within the very agencies of this government would now conspire to intimidate and harass me and my family.”
Gordhan said that he has already consulted his lawyers.
“They will be approaching the leadership of both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority for further information and clarity.”
Gordhan said he worked together with over 10 000 staff for a decade to transform Sars.
“We built the revenue service into an efficient and effective institution that provided the increasing fiscal resources to enable government to provide social grants. Sars and the specialist investigative units therein operated within the law during my time as the commissioner.”
He also mentioned reports of business people claiming inside knowledge of or influence over state institutions. “If such reports are true, that alleged conduct will undermine the integrity and honesty within the treasury or other key institutions,” said Gordhan.
“It is particularly painful to me, and I’m sure to many earnest democrats, to witness this unrestrained attack on honest and hardworking people and the institutions meant to strengthen our democracy.
“Millions of people will pay the price (there will be less money to relieve poverty and support job creation programmes) if this subversion of democracy is left unrestrained and unchallenged,” said Gordhan.
“I appeal to all South Africans to protect the national treasury staff, who have diligently, honestly and skilfully served the national interest to the best of their ability. They are recognised worldwide for their professionalism and competence.”