In South Africa Gordhan says complied with police as row widens

Gordhan's lawyers, Gildenhuys Malatji Inc., reiterated that the finance minister had offered to help police with their inquiries.

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South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan reacts during a media briefing in Sandton near Johannesburg play South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan reacts during a media briefing in Sandton near Johannesburg March 14, 2016. (REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo)
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South Africa's finance minister said on Thursday that he had complied with a police investigation, in a widening dispute which has also pitted government agencies against each other and rattled financial markets.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week declined to obey a police summons linked to the probe into whether he had used the unit at the tax service to spy on politicians including President Jacob Zuma, saying he had done nothing wrong.

Gordhan's lawyers, Gildenhuys Malatji Inc., reiterated that the finance minister had offered to help police with their inquiries. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) had urged him on Tuesday to cooperate with the police.

Zuma has said he backs Gordhan but cannot stop the investigation, and some senior ANC party members have criticised the finance minister for not obeying the summons.

The ructions in government have weakened the currency and government bonds in an economy teetering on recession. The rand has fallen more than 8 percent since Aug. 23 when the elite police unit Hawks summoned Gordhan.

"The Minister responded fully to all the Hawks' enquiries, offered to provide any further assistance they might require and scrupulously acted in accordance with the law," Gordhan's lawyers said in a statement.

Gordhan is due to accompany Zuma to the summit of the Group of 20 (G20) leaders in China next week, the presidency said.

The row widened on Monday when the Treasury accused state-owned power utility Eskom of blocking a probe into its coal contracts with a company linked to the wealthy Gupta family. The opposition accuse the Guptas of holding undue political sway over Zuma, but Eskom and the Guptas have denied the claims.

The rand currency fell further on Wednesday when Futuregrowth, which manages client assets of around $12 billion, said it would no longer lend to six state-owned firms, including Eskom, citing political uncertainty raised by the investigation of Gordhan.

The ANC said on Thursday that it was "erroneous" to conclude that the state-owned companies were beset by corporate governance problems, but the main opposition party called Futuregrowth's decision a vote of no confidence in Zuma.

"South Africa's SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) are in a dire state costing the country billions as government continues to prop them up despite their immense losses," said the Democratic Alliance, which took control of Johannesburg and the municipality that runs the capital Pretoria at the Aug. 3 local government polls.

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