EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu on Thursday afternoon demanded an apology from the chair of the Standing Committee of Finance, Yunus Carrim.
This after Carrim sent out a statement on behalf of the committee criticising Shivambu’s remarks about Treasury deputy director-general Ismail Momoniat.
Earlier in the week Shivambu, in a committee meeting, had accused Momoniat of having a superiority complex which did not allow him to take orders from African seniors. His remarks received condemnation from several quarters, including the committee and later Momoniat’s employer, National Treasury.
On Thursday Shivambu took exception to the statement released by the committee, which labelled what he said to Momoniat a “crude attack” and “inconsistent with the non-racial principles”.
Shivambu said the statement was “absolute nonsense”. He said it implied he said someone could not speak before the committee on the basis of their race.
“I submit that the committee withdraw that statement and apologise,” he said.
In a recording of the meeting on Tuesday, which Fin24 has heard, Carrim challenged Shivambu’s earlier comments regarding Momoniat, interpreting them as a bid to deny Indian South Africans the freedom to identify as African or to minimise their contribution to constitutional democracy.
“What is he going to say next? That (Bantustan of Bophutatswana leader Lucas) Mangope is more important that Mac Maharaj? Please, no! And Jay Naidoo? No! You come from the same ideology broadly, Floyd. This is going too far, really. What are [you] gonna say next, that Mongope is more important than Ahmad Kathrada?
“No, Floyd, you are letting yourself down, and you’re letting government down,” Carrim said at the time.
‘I never said that’
“I never said anywhere that the guy must not speak because he is Indian. You (Carrim) even went around and did interviews on behalf of this committee saying that I prevented a person from speaking on the basis of him being Indian – I never said that.”
Shivambu said there was nothing wrong with critiquing the undermining of African leadership. “That is what we did, and you go around in a crazy, nonsensical way, and say I prevented a person from speaking because he is Indian. I demand that you apologise for that.”
Carrim responded by saying nowhere in the statement did the committee indicate that Shivambu would not let anyone speak because he or she were Indian. “That would mean Pravin Gordhan can’t speak because he is Indian. No one said that.”
Carrim also pointed out that the committee called for Treasury and the larger financial sector to be more demographically representative.
Shivambu wants Treasury to hold a briefing on its demographic representation at management level.
During Thursday’s discussion around the incident, ANC MP Thandi Tobias said that the committee did not want anyone, whether “white, green or blue” to undermine African leadership.
But she questioned Shivambu for bringing racial classification into the meeting. “Let us not pretend that you did not do it,” she said to Shivambu. She also requested Shivambu to bring evidence to support his assertion that Momoniat was undermining African leadership.
The committee resolved to issue a new statement, which would reaffirm the previous statement. It would, however, be amended to note that the other reason for Shivambu objecting to Momoniat’s presence was that he allegedly undermined African leadership.
“We did not say in our statement that he objected to Mr Momoniat speaking on the grounds of his race; in any case, he can’t do it.
“We didn’t say it and neither did the chair,” said Carrim.
Carrim said Shivambu was now free to go to any authority in Parliament to question the accuracy of the statement that was discussed in a committee meeting on Wednesday, which Shivambu did not attend. “And if the structure finds that the chairperson has done wrong, the chairperson will resign,” said Carrim.
Director-General Dondo Mogajane defended Momoniat on the Karima Brown Show on 702 on Tuesday. Having worked with Momoniat for 18 years, Mogajane said that he was professional and not racist.
“The way Momoniat has conducted himself in the 18 years I have known him – he is not racist, he is a professional. I support him; everyone supports him.
“He has guided us in many ways. He is an asset to government, he is an asset to South Africans.
“He plays a major role in what Treasury has become – an institution of note,” Mogajane said.
He also rejected Shivambu’s comments that Momoniat undermined his office, and that of the deputy minister and minister. “Treasury is an institution with professionals who work hard and who put their lives on the line on behalf of South Africans to keep the integrity of the system intact. The comments of Shivambu are unfortunate.”
Treasury issued a separate statement on Thursday, in which it rejected Shivambu’s allegations that Momoniat was undermining African leadership.
“The Ministry of Finance treats with utmost contempt the EFF claims that Momoniat drives an agenda that is against black people. This cannot be. Whenever he has appeared in Parliament, or any other public platform, he has articulated National Treasury policies, policies that have also served and [been] approved by Cabinet,” Treasury said. — Fin 24