RANJENI MUNUSAMY: The Hawks - Where state capture evidence goes to die
'The agenda behind the hit on Gordhan seems to be to delegitimise his voice, particularly what he might still reveal about the Gupta looting enterprise'
For a few hours on Wednesday afternoon, there was a glimmer of hope that South Africa might be turning the corner on the era of lawlessness and there would finally be consequences for those involved in the wanton plunder of the state.
Given the mountain of evidence of looting in the Gupta e-mails, the top sleuths at the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation should have explosive case dockets ready to go to court.
Instead, the Hawks have become sitting ducks.
It is where all evidence of state capture goes to die, and where many computer screens are aglow with riveting games of Solitaire.
On Wednesday, Hawks officials told a parliamentary joint committee on illicit financial flows that they were looking into the Gupta e-mails. Acting head of the Hawks Yolisa Matakata also confirmed they were investigating allegations that state money financed the Gupta family wedding at Sun City in 2013.
This gave hope that the rot of the Mthandazo Ntlemeza era, when the Hawks masqueraded as a political hit squad, was finally dissipating.
But the reassurances to parliament were simply to throw off the scent.
The Hawks' only fixation, it would seem, is the former investigative unit at SARS and their No1 target remains Pravin Gordhan.
It emerged late on Wednesday that the Hawks were moving to reinstate charges against the former finance minister over the alleged bugging of NPA offices in 2007.
The project - dubbed "Sunday Evenings" - was supposedly the work of a "rogue unit" within the tax revenue service, which the Hawks have been trying to pin on Gordhan since early last year.
Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi has now confirmed that former finance minister Trevor Manuel and former deputy finance minister Jabu Moleketi were served with papers requesting they provide affidavits on the matter by today.
The case fell apart when NPA head Shaun Abrahams withdrew the charges on the eve of Gordhan appearing in court last November.
But there appears to be renewed determination to get Gordhan into the dock, which is aided by two state officials allegedly becoming state witnesses.
There are several reasons for targeting him.
Since his dismissal by President Jacob Zuma in March, Gordhan has embraced his role as the most prominent face of the resistance against the Guptas and their enablers in the state and ANC.
He has spoken on a number of public platforms and conducted interviews with international networks on how the state capture network took root.
There were major public protests over his axing and support for him shot up when he said he would vote according to conscience in the motion of no confidence against Zuma. He could face disciplinary action for doing so.
Gordhan is suspected of colluding with South African banks to close down the Gupta bank accounts, which forced the sale of their businesses and left Duduzane Zuma without a channel to fund his high life.
Duduzane and his brother Edward exposed the bitterness of those in their circle in their attacks on Gordhan this week. ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte also launched an attack on Gordhan and his former deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, saying the party would not be held to ransom by groupings of aggrieved members.
The agenda behind the hit on Gordhan seems to be to delegitimise his voice, particularly what he might still reveal about the Gupta looting enterprise.
The former minister claims allegations implicating him in the R1-billion Integrated Financial Management System project are part of a "well-orchestrated campaign by the Gupta syndicate".
"This is also a very transparent and ridiculous attempt to shift the focus from the plentiful evidence existing in the public protector's state capture report and the leaked e-mails of plain stealing of public resources for which this clique must still account some day soon," Gordhan said.
The Hawks' investigation shows that, despite the collapse of the Gupta business empire, they still have a grip on the state through Zuma and will continue to use institutions against their enemies.
If the Hawks did have a credible investigation into the corrupt dealings of the Guptas, it would have meant that they had managed to break free of their clutches.
But the true state of play was revealed in Duduzane's open letter to Gordhan: "A Hawks investigation against me and Gupta family came up with no wrongdoing."
So, while Gordhan might be forced into the dock soon, the Guptas will not be.