There were no conditions attached to Pravin Gordhan’s appointment as finance minister in 2015, the public enterprises minister told the commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday.
“I don’t make deals for jobs. I don’t need to,” Gordhan told the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — in response to being asked whether former president Jacob Zuma placed any conditions on his 2015 appointment as finance minister.
Gordhan, whose appointment as finance minister has been subject to widespread speculation, thanked the commission for the opportunity to answer to allegations that there had been any foul play in his elevation to the helm of the treasury.
On Sunday, Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) leader Julius Malema reportedly said the controversial Gupta family was central to Gordhan’s appointment as finance minister for the first time back in 2009.
The EFF has been vocal in its criticism of Gordhan, particularly about his alleged connections to the Guptas.
In a statement released two weeks ago, the EFF lambasted Gordhan for allegedly lying in Parliament about meeting with the Guptas. The statement said Gordhan should “fall on his sword for lying”.
In a later statement, the party decried the fact that Gordhan has been painted as the champion of anti-corruption, while “he is part of the problem”.
As Gordhan delivered his testimony, protest songs crept into the room as the EFF picketed outside the commission — as they had on Monday.
The beginning of Gordhan’s testimony on Tuesday focused on the axing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in December 2015 and Gordhan’s subsequent appointment to the position.
After Nene dismissal, he was replaced by ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen. Gordhan recounted how the market was launched into turmoil following this announcement.
Van Rooyen was only finance minister for four days before Zuma asked to meet with Gordhan to offer him the job.
Prior to the meeting then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and then deputy ANC secretary general Jessie Duarte contacted Gordhan to tell him that Zuma would request something of him, Gordhan said.
“I believe Ms Duarte and then Deputy President Ramaphosa had met with former President Zuma over the weekend regarding his surprise removal of Mr Nene and the appointment of Mr van Rooyen,” he said.
Gordhan told the commission Zuma told him there had been no problems with Van Rooyen’s CV but that it was necessary to replace him in order to stabilise the market.
He told Zuma that there were other suitable candidates, like Mcebisi Jonas and Jabu Moleketi, for the job, Gordhan said. But, according to Gordhan, Zuma said neither of these candidates were suitable to him.
When asked by Advocate Paul Pretorius, who led Gordhan’s evidence, whether or not Zuma had attached any conditions to his appointment, the public enterprises minister said he never lobbied for the job and that he did not actually want to change jobs. Gordhan was the minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs at the time.
“As far as I am concerned I am accountable to the citizens of this country … But I am not accountable to bullies in any way whatsoever,” he said.
Gordhan added that anyone making allegations must appear before the commission and submit themselves to cross-examination.