Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan will write to the Speaker of Parliament to clarify his controversial response to the Democratic Alliance’s question about whether he met with the Guptas, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.
Gordhan did not disclose in the 2016 parliamentary response that he had attended a meeting with Indian businessman Anil Ambani in 2010. The meeting may or may not have been attended by a Gupta brother.
Gordhan told the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — that he intends to write to Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of the National Assembly, to clarify that he has no recollection of Gupta patriarch, Ajay, attending the meeting with Ambani.
“At the time of the written response I had no recollection of the meeting with Ambani,” Gordhan said.
He told the commission on Tuesday that the leaking of his statement has trivialised his so-called links to the Gupta family, saying that the media and the public have sought out “sound-bites” inferring that his interactions with the Guptas have been more meaningful than they actually were.
After Gordhan’s statement was leaked, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) released a statement lambasting Gordhan for lying to Parliament.
The party connected this alleged lie to the fate of Nhlanhla Nene, who resigned as finance minister in October after it emerged during the course of his testimony before the Zondo commission that he had met with the Guptas at their Saxonwold compound four times between 2010 and 2013.
Gordhan was scheduled to appear before the commission shortly after Nene’s testimony, but his testimony was postponed. The commission’s legal team applied to postpone Gordhan’s appearance because they had not received his full statement in time.
“Immediately after the exposure of Nhlanhla Nene’s public lies about his meetings and engagements with the Guptas, Pravin Gordhan asked for the postponement of his appearance before the state capture inquiry and used the intervening period to alter his initially submitted affidavit,” the EFF alleged.
The EFF’s statement said that Gordhan had lied in his initial statement and thus chose to revise it.
On Tuesday, Gordhan reiterated that he would not lie about the meeting. “If I wanted to lie I could have left this meeting out,” he said, referring to his statement to the commission.
“I have been quite emphatic that I am not for sale,” Gordhan said. There were repeated efforts to get Gordhan to meet with the Guptas, all of which were turned down, he added.
During the section of his statement relating to his interactions with members of the politically connected family, he said: “I don’t even want to use the word ‘relationship’, because there was never such relationship.”
He added that he hopes the media gets it clear that he never had any one-on-one meeting with the Guptas.
“I refused to schedule a meeting with the Gupta family, whether at their residence or anywhere else,” Gordhan read from his statement, a statement he later repeated.
As Gordhan delivered his testimony, the EFF picketed outside the commission with some protesters carrying signs which read: “Pravin must fall”.
The demonstration outside was spirited enough to prompt some commission attendees to complain about the noise, a fact that Zondo raised after a short break in proceedings.
EFF leader Julius Malema is expected to address the protesters at 4pm on Tuesday.