Debt reduction, a growing economy and the creation of millions of much-needed jobs are the main areas of focus for Pravin Gordhan, the newly appointed finance minister told media at a briefing at Tshedimosetso House in Pretoria on Monday afternoon.
Gordhan was addressing media houses following the release of a late-night statement from the presidency on Sunday saying he was swapping ministries with David “Des” van Rooyen who is now heading up the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta).
Returning to the portfolio he held from 2009 to 2014, Gordhan described himself as a loyal public servant who is happy as long as he is serving South Africans at large.
Stressing the importance of fiscal discipline, Gordhan issued a stern warning to those in the habit of using state parastatals as cash cows, saying: “New measures are being put in place to [reduce] corruption and [enhance] transparency and these will be complemented by stern enforcement.”
He said President Jacob Zuma took the decision to reassign Van Rooyen in response to the jittery reaction of financial markets and an ailing rand, indicating that he is willing to listen and subsequently react appropriately when it counts.
Flanked by his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago and department director-general Lungisa Fuzile, Gordhan said he had faith in his administrative team who would help to improve the department’s relations with the private sector so that they can restore and reassure foreign and local investors.
However, Gordhan stressed that they will not be dictated to by either private or state entities and pro-poor programmes will not suffer as a result.
Gordhan said Nene’s instructions to the Board of the South African Airways (SAA) to finalize the approved deal with French manufacturers Airbus still stood, budgets allowing.
He said he would initiate contact with SAA Board chairperson Dudu Myeni within the next 24-hours for a more detailed and informed discussion on this matter.
Any nuclear deal undertaken, meanwhile, would only be done so in accordance with the respective legal framework.
“I will stabilise SAA and ensure any nuclear deal is lawful,” he said. Visibly annoyed, Gordhan was dismissive of a KPMG report implicating him in the operations of a rogue unit within the South African Receiver of Revenue when questioned about it, saying he would not respond to documents he had not seen whose main purpose was to destabilise and tarnish the image of state institutions that should instead be protected for future generations.
He urged South Africans to work with them “to build a resilient economy and a better life for all.”