Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his former deputy Mcebisi Jonas railed against state capture on Wednesday, calling on citizens to take a stand to protect state institutions and economic damage that could take a decade to repair. By GREG NICOLSON.
Speaking at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Wednesday evening, Gordhan condemned the looting of state-owned companies and the lack of accountability and political leadership as institutions are hollowed out for a small group of elites who send money to Dubai.
Gordhan’s speech was targeted at the Gupta family and their ANC allies. “How many of you would accept R600-million in a bribe from the Guptas? … You see that’s the critical question in South Africa,” said the former minister, speaking on state capture, radical economic transformation and white minority capital. “[Jonas] said, ‘Keep it,’ because he was not prepared to sell out the sovereignty of our country, which so many have fought for.”
Jonas has gone on record saying Ajay Gupta offered him R600-million in exchange for channelling business deals to the Guptas if he was appointed to replace his then-boss, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. Gordhan and Jonas were removed in President Jacob Zuma’s controversial Cabinet reshuffle in March, widely believed to be because they were blocking treasury and other departments from entering into dodgy deals with the Gupta family. Since their removal, the #GuptaLeaks, a trove of emails from within Gupta empire, have confirmed many of the allegations against the family.
“When you start stealing institutions that leads to stealing money,” said Gordhan, who detailed the process of state capture. He said stealing from the state amounted to stealing from South Africans. Gordhan was heckled by students in ANC and EFF gear. “Imagine all the money that is stolen from the fiscus was actually going to student fees. How different your life would have been!”
Gordhan said while those standing up to state capture were defamed and targeted – he was investigated by the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority – the “criminal justice system doesn’t chase the actual rogues”. He said nothing has been done after Jonas reported the bribe the Guptas offered him and they had gotten off “scot-free”. Referring to Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh, who is at the centre of the allegations involving the Gupta family’s dealings with the power utility, he said those implicated in allegations of corruption are “smiling when they give these answers instead of having a worried look”.
Both Gordhan and Jonas implored citizens to take a stronger role in confronting state capture. Gordhan said there are “too many fence sitters”, including in the ANC, waiting to see how the issues pan out. “Which side are you on?” he asked. “If we keep quiet, we are going to slump into a ten-year disaster. It will take five to ten years to recover. This South Africa is our country. Nobody must be allowed to steal it from us.”
“Our country is in a crisis of leadership… You can’t have leaders who spend 80% of their time defending their problems‚” said Jonas. “South Africa is facing its defining moment both politically and economically,” he added. Jonas and Gordhan said as state institutions are weakened, the country will not be able to escape the trends of high inequality and slow growth and the state will not be able to transform the economy or deliver services to uplift the poor.
Gordhan was attacked in a letter attributed to Zuma’s son Edward Zuma on Wednesday. “By being the extension of whites and white monopoly capital stooge‚ Gordhan shows us of his inferiority complex to whites but superior complex to natives‚ that whites according to him and his inner world – deserve to be accorded a perpetual status as masters‚ and an African native is unimaginative to be of higher status than any race in this country,” the letter reportedly said.
Gordhan has continually faced such attacks and the UJ audience was hostile towards him on Wednesday on the same points. Gordhan and Jonas hit out at the slogans and racialised posturing they said were being used to deflect attention from state capture. They said everyone knows white South Africans, as well as foreigners, still largely control the economy and the land, but citizens must ask how that can be transformed without descending into racism.
University of Witwatersrand economist Lumkile Mondi, also speaking at the UJ event, said a shadow state had been established. That was clear when senior ANC leaders said they did not know where the list of names for March’s Cabinet reshuffle came from. “Our country is being stolen. There is a silent coup taking place.” He called on the students “howling” at Gordhan and Jonas to pressure MPs to vote against Zuma in the August no confidence motion. “It’s all in our own hands,” he said, quoting Nelson Mandela. DM
Photo: Minister Pravin Gordhan, Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas and Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago during the pre-Budget speech media briefing at Imbizo Centre in Parliament. (Photo: GCIS)
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