/ 29 August 2016

Pravin Gordhan should face the music, says ANC’s Jessie Duarte

ANC Deputy Security General Jessie Duarte.
ANC Deputy Security General Jessie Duarte.

The ANC’s deputy secretary general has lambasted Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s decision not to make a warning statement with the Directorate for Priority Crimes Unit, the Hawks, saying he is projecting himself as above the law.

Gordhan is currently embroiled in perceived attempts to dislodge him from the national treasury and is being targeted by the Hawks for his role in setting up an apparent “rogue” spy unit within the South African Revenue Service during his tenure as commissioner. 

“To date, Pravin Gordhan has never projected himself as above the law, except in this case,” Duarte told the Gupta-owned ANN7 news network in an exclusive interview this week.

The ANC has remained tight-lipped about the ongoing war between Gordhan and the Hawks. The finance minister refused to report to the Hawks last week, saying he had sufficiently answered a list of 27 questions related to the investigative unit in February this year.

On Monday, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told the Mail & Guardian that ANC officials would be discussing the stand-off and could not comment at this stage. But in an interview broadcast on Sunday night, Duarte takes aim at the finance minister.

Duarte told the broadcaster that Gordhan should comply with the Hawks’ request, as Jacob Zuma complied with the Scorpions when he was deputy president.

“Minister Gordhan is an upstanding, upright and honest man. Before comrade Jacob Zuma was relieved of his post as deputy president of South Africa, he was called by the Scorpions to answer 32 questions in their office. He did that. Many of us are asking ‘why can’t Minister Gordhan simply answer the questions?’ If he’s innocent, that will be the outcome of that,” she said.

Last week, the minister reportedly told his colleagues at a national treasury staff meeting that he is wiling to die to save the country from thieves and that he would not be surprised if he were to be removed from office.

On Thursday, former SARS commissioners Ivan Pilay and Johann van Loggenberg presented themselves to the Hawks’ offices. Meanwhile civil society groups and activists protested outside to object to what they perceive as a political conspiracy against Gordhan. Among them was retired constitutional court judge Johan Kriegler and veteran advocate George Bizos.

Duarte said the public support for the minister has now elevated the spat to an “international campaign against South Africa”.

“What concerns many of us that support comrade Pravin in the work that he’s doing is what will happen if the NPA decides to charge him. He’s now got a judge, he’s got advocate Bizos talking on his behalf and this has become an international campaign against South Africa.”

She also questioned what would happen if the national prosecuting authority were to take action against him.

“What happens when there is a correct jurisprudence approach where he is perhaps charged? And God forbid that ever happens. But you always have to look at tomorrow,” Duarte said.