The storm around Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan could result in an unprecedented stand-off between those who support him and those who support the EFF on Tuesday, when he takes the Public Protector’s report on review at the Pretoria High Court.
Gordhan, considered to be central to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “new dawn” plans of repairing the state after a decade of state capture, has come under attack over the past few months after two findings against him by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Ramaphosa – who filed a supporting affidavit in the Pretoria High Court relating to Gordhan’s court application to suspend Mkhwebane’s remedial orders – came out in defence of the minister this week following “extraordinary attacks” from the EFF.
“I can express a view on the character of Minister Gordhan and the contribution he has made to the liberation of our country. I have appointed him to a critical and demanding position in Cabinet because I know him to be a person of commitment and integrity. He has endured and withstood extreme pressure – both under apartheid and in the democratic era. He has been under pressure to abandon principle and forsake his responsibility to this nation. If Minister Gordhan – or any member of this administration – has anything to answer for, they must be held to account, without exception. They must be held before any court and they must go and answer,” said Ramaphosa during his response to the National Assembly on the budget debate.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu also defended Gordhan, questioning “why the EFF was pursuing Gordhan so much”.
“Let’s just try to answer this question. Why this anarchic pursuit of this stalwart of our liberation movement? One reason that we want to put is that there is a deep-seated hatred for our Indian compatriots among this.”
He added: “I can assure you that, in his attempts to clean the state-owned enterprises, he stepped on some corrupt toes of EFF cronies. And it positions Gordhan as the most visible opponent of the campaign to frustrate reforms.”
EFF leader Julius Malema rejected Mthembu’s accusation that his party was racist towards South Africans of Indian origin, and said the EFF’s pursuit of Gordhan had nothing to do with his race.
“It’s not about Indian. Zuma was not an Indian, Malusi Gigaba was not an Indian, Nhlanhla Nene was not an Indian. We have gone after Africans who were found wanting and now, because we go after an Indian, we are told you are anti-Indians. It will not shake us,” said Malema on Thursday.
He was speaking to journalists in Parliament at a press conference convened to respond to the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the SA Communist Party and civil society organisations expressed their support for the minister and what they called “a campaign against state corruption”.