In his final statement as finance minister, Pravin Gordhan encouraged South Africans to begin mobilising against the protection of individual interests over public interests.
Gordhan and his outgoing deputy Mcebisi Jonas spoke to media at the treasury offices in Pretoria on Friday morning. Their address comes after they were both fired on Thursday night in a Cabinet reshuffle that has been described as a “massacre”. Former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba will replace Gordhan, and ANC MP Sfiso Buthelezi is set to be his deputy.
Gordhan told journalists that he received no call or text messages from the president informing him he had been fired. Instead, he discovered he had been sack on TV.
The reshuffle – which has seen 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers affected – has been widely rallied against. The Democratic Alliance has said it will file an urgent application to interdict the ministers being sworn in tonight at 6pm.
Former secretary general of Cosatu Zwelinzima Vavi protested with non-governmental organisations outside treasury on Friday. Vavi and Gordhan supporters entered into the press room and stood behind Gordhan as he spoke. It was then announced that protesters had surrounded the treasury building to prevent Gigaba and Buthelezi from entering.
When Gordhan was asked what South Africans should do in response to the reshuffle, he had one word: “Organise”.
“South Africa comes from a rich history of community mobilising and mass mobilising,” he said.
“Fragmented voices don’t have the weight that is required. It’s the organised voices.”
The outgoing minister had a message to all South Africans: “Our souls are not for sale.”
“It’s absolute nonsense”
Gordhan also dismissed an intelligence report Zuma is said to have produced to the ANC’s top 5 to justify Gordhan’s dismissal. The report claims that the outgoing finance minister and Jonas planned secret meetings during their international roadshow to overthrow the government.
“This is absolute nonsense,” Gordhan said. “This is not basis to fire finance minister and [the deputy finance minister].”
He rubbished the report as being “amateur” and said it “sickens me” that he is alleged to have had secret meetings to undermine the state.
It was widely rumoured that Gordhan met with Mantashe on Tuesday after being called to be briefed on a Cabinet reshuffle. The meeting followed his arrival in Johannesburg after Zuma told him to “immediately” return from the investor roadshow in London.
He clarified what happened in his meeting with Mantashe, saying that he and Jonas had called to meet the ANC secretary general at Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters, because they were “fascinated” by the reasons why they had been instructed to return.
Mantashe has since reacted to the Cabinet reshuffle saying that it appears the decisions on the affected ministers and deputies were made “somewhere else”. The ANC secretary general said that the ANC top 5 were not consulted on the reshuffle, they were informed about it.
Gordhan meanwhile has said that he will continue to remain a member of Parliament.
“We are not here to complain about anything. We’re grown-ups. We understand we can’t hold these titles for our lifetime,” he said.