Finance minister Pravin Gordhan speaking in Johannesburg earlier this month. Gordhan said he saw more than 50% chance the country will avoid a downgrade by ratings agencies.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the South African Communist Party (SACP), ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Gauteng premier David Makhura have reacted to the charges of fraud against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, saying that it will do no good for South Africa.
EFF leader Julius Malema posted his views on Twitter after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that a summons had been issued to Gordhan, as well as former Sars commissioner Oupa Magashula and former deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. The three have been accused of theft and fraud in relation to Pillay’s early retirement in 2010. Pillay received full benefits, but Gordhan has denied that he received any financial gain. They are due to appear in court on November 2.
Malema encouraged South Africans to protest in Pretoria on November 2 in solidarity with Gordhan, and said that the charges were President Jacob Zuma’s retaliation as public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture is to be released in the coming days.
In a strongly worded statement, the SACP also pledged its support for Gordhan, saying that the Hawks investigation into the finance minister was without reason. The SACP also said that the investigation was an attempt to unseat Gordhan from the finance ministry. Since the investigation first began, speculation has mounted that the Hawks interest in Gordhan is a politically connected move to allow Zuma to capture the national treasury.
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“No one – whether the Minister of Finance Comrade Pravin Gordhan or the Hawks should be above the law. The putative charges that the Hawks have, for a while, been making against the minister who has now apparently been issued with summons in relation to the so-called South African Receiver of Revenue or Sars rogue unit, are a pretext to have him removed from office and weaken the national treasury’s struggle that he is leading against corruption and corporate capture,” the SACP said in its statement.
NPA head Shaun Abrahams has denied that there has been any political interference in his offices, and although the SACP acknowledged what Abrahams said, the party also noted that the timing of the charges against Gordhan was suspicious. Initially, the Hawks had denied they were investigating Gordhan, before they back-peddled and admitted they were doing so.
“The party has noted the denial of any political involvement in this matter, but also that, after assuring Gordhan that he was not a suspect, and then pausing for the local government elections, the matter was suddenly back on the table just after the elections,” the SACP said.
The DA, meanwhile, has also reacted to the charges against Gordhan, calling it a “disaster for the economy of South Africa”. After Abrahams made the announcement that Gordhan had been summoned, the rand began to nosedive.
“The news, which comes two weeks before the tabling of the crucial medium term budget policy statement on October 26 2016, has caused the rand to plummet, and will make a sovereign ratings downgrade more likely in South Africa,” the DA’s David Maynier, spokesperson for finance, said.
Maynier also noted that Gordhan has maintained that the transaction related to Pillay’s retirement were above board and lawful.
“We must now trust the courts to determine whether there is any merit to these charges. And we hope that there will be no delay in bringing this matter to court because ‘justice delayed is justice denied’,”Maynier said.
Abrahams made the announcement that a summons had been issued while Gordhan was attending an event hosted by the Gauteng provincial government. Makhura spoke sincerely of Gordhan, telling the finance minister that he believed in his leadership.
“We believe in your ethical leadership. We believe in your ability to face this moment as you work hard and do your best to steer the economy collectively, on the right path,” said Makhura.
“The truth will come out. The truth is too strong to be kept secret.”
During an ANC press briefing to report back on their weekend lekgotla, the ANC’s chief whip Jackson Mthembu also showed solidarity with Gordhan, calling him an “honest man”.
“We will accompany him to the courts as a disciplined cadre and a wonderful finance minister,” Mthembu said.
Gordhan has said that he will co-operate with the summons, and he will appear in court on November 2.