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Nhleko washes his hands of Hawks-Gordhan spat

Nathi Nhleko was asked about his view on the current wrangle between the Hawks and Pravin Gordhan.

FILE: Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Police Minister Nathi Nhleko says police management will not entertain any speculation on the ongoing tussle between the Hawks and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

At a briefing on the police's latest crime stats in Parliament, Nhleko was asked about his view on the current wrangle between the Hawks and Gordhan.

Nhleko refused to allow Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza to answer a question on whether the elite unit will arrest Gordhan.

He said further discussion would not benefit anyone.

"You realise that in South African Police Service we took a very deliberate position right from the onset that we are not going to entertain all these issues and the speculation that are out there."

The police minister has also refused to be drawn on whether Gordhan faces imminent arrest.

"In whose benefit is it to continue this conversation that has been going on for some days now in the country, does it benefit the rule of law?"

Nhleko says Cabinet and the African National Congress have released a statement, stating there will be no further public discussion on the matter.

He has also dispelled suggestions Cabinet is divided on the issue.

WILL GORDHAN BE CHARGED?

On Monday, it was reported the Finance Minister could be charged with graft as soon as this week.

The City Press newspaper reported on Sunday, citing senior sources in the police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the tax service.

The AFP news agency quoted an NPA spokesperson as saying "there is no decision whatsoever to prosecute anyone", but that police had given prosecutors a docket on Friday. Neither Gordhan nor the prosecuting service could be reached by Reuters then.

Last week, police summoned Gordhan in connection with an investigation into a controversial spy unit set up in the revenue service when he headed the organisation, rattling South African markets and sending the rand down five percent.

The investigation first came to light in February and political pundits have said Gordhan is being undermined by a faction in the government and ruling African National Congress (ANC) allied to President Jacob Zuma.

According to Sunday's report in City Press, 30 witnesses have been called to testify against Gordhan and three former officials from the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

The newspaper said Gordhan would be charged with corruption for allegedly granting early retirement to Ivan Pillay, a former commissioner of the Sars who is also under investigation. It said charges could be brought as soon as this week.

Zuma said last week he backed Gordhan but was powerless to stop a police investigation into him, signalling a prolonged tussle that could add to market volatility.

Additional reporting by Reuters.