* Gordhan due to appear in court over fraud on Nov. 2
* Rand firms by as much as 2 pct on review of charges
* Analysts say Gordhan a target of political pressure
* Zuma denies rifts with finance minister
(Adds quotes, details)
By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, Oct 12 South Africa's state
prosecutor said on Wednesday that Finance Minister Pravin
Gordhan could ask for a review of a decision to charge him with
fraud, a case that is part of a long-running row surrounding the
The comments from Shaun Abrahams, the National Director of
Public Prosecutions, pushed the rand firmer. Gordhan is well
regarded by investors and business people.
Abrahams had said on Tuesday that Gordhan, in his previous
role as head of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), cost
the tax agency about 1.1 million rand ($79,000) by approving
early retirement for a deputy commissioner in 2010 and re-hiring
him as a consultant.
Gordhan was issued with a formal summons to appear in court
on Nov. 2 over fraud charges.
On Wednesday, Abrahams said he was willing to review the
matter if somebody requested that he do so.
"Now, Minister Pravin Gordhan can submit representations to
me and ask me to review that matter and I would certainly look
into the matter," he told a parliamentary briefing in Cape Town.
Analysts have said that Gordhan has been a target of
political pressure from a faction allied to President Jacob
Zuma, who has denied any rifts with the finance minister.
The perceived tussle between Zuma and Gordhan has rattled
markets in Africa's most industrialized economy, which faces the
risk of ratings downgrades later this year. The opposition has
called the investigation on Gordhan a "witch-hunt".
Gordhan has said he would remain in his post despite the
court summons. He has denied the allegations, saying they are
part of a politically motivated campaign against him.
The National Prosecuting Authority has been criticised by
some analysts for announcing its plans to charge Gordhan for
fraud just two weeks before he is due to outline plans to
kick-start the economy and avert possible credit rating cuts to
The rand firmed more than 2 percent in response to
Abrahams comments, before parings some of its gains. The
currency fell more than 4 percent on Tuesday on news Gordhan had
been summoned to court.
Abrahams said "I don't think we must jump the gun" on
whether Gordhan could also face charges about the legality of a
surveillance unit he set up at the tax department a decade ago
that is suspected of spying on politicians including Zuma.
Abrahams said the NPA was still investigating this issue and
will decide whether or not to press charges at the conclusion of
the probe, but did not provide a timeline for completion.
Previously finance minister from 2009 to 2014, Gordhan was
recalled to the post to stem a selloff in South African assets
after Zuma abruptly replaced finance minister Nhlanhla Nene with
an unknown politician in December.
He and central bank governor Lesetja Kganyago have since
worked hard to reassure investors that economic policy remains
free from political interference. Prosecuting Gordhan could undo
those efforts, South African business leaders have said.
(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Angus MacSwan)