South Africa

The Gordhan Files, Part 2

The Axing: ‘Mantashe spoke to me about leaving with my integrity intact’ – Pravin Gordhan

Archive photo: Axed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan at Church Square during the #OccupyTreasury protest on March 31, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is to ask the Zondo Commission of Inquiry to ‘follow the money’ so that state-owned enterprises and taxpayers can get their money back.

See Part 1 of the Gordhan files here

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has revealed that while the ANC’s Top Six – its top executive – protected him from the conspiracies and an axing by former President Jacob Zuma in 2017, the party’s then secretary-general Gwede Mantashe spoke to him about “leaving with my integrity and honour intact”.

But Gordhan states in his affidavit to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry:

I had no plans to resign but would continue to serve the national interest. My position (to Mantashe) was that the former President could fire me if he wanted to get rid of me.”

By March 2017, the low-intensity skirmishes that had characterised the relationship between Zuma and Gordhan from his return to the Treasury as Finance Minister in December 2015 had broken into open warfare.

Gordhan and the Treasury had held the line against big-ticket expenditure including splurging on a R1-trillion nuclear deal, a PetroSA deal to buy Petronas’s stake in Engen and the joint venture between Denel and the Gupta-linked company VR Laser to form VR Laser Asia operating out of Hong Kong.

Zuma was, by then, fuming, and he wanted Gordhan out; he summoned him back from an investor road show, ostensibly to fire him.

Mantashe met Gordhan on his return, to brief him.

During that meeting with Mr Mantashe, he informed me that former president Zuma had met with the ANC’s Top Six officials on the previous day, Monday 27 March 2017.”

In that meeting, Zuma had floated an intelligence report which alleged a plot within the Treasury against him and said that he felt his relationship had broken down irretrievably.

At that meeting, the ANC’s top officials had rejected then Eskom CEO Brian Molefe as a replacement for Gordhan and it had made short shrift of the intelligence report Zuma waved about. Despite his officials’ opposition to him taking out Gordhan and the then deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, Zuma did exactly that three days later.

In a late-night reshuffle, both were removed and so were Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom and then Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramathlodi, both of whom had resisted corruption and the growing influence of the Gupta family in South African politics.

Gordhan’s testimony provides the lengthiest arc and analysis of State Capture yet presented to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. He is set to appear before it in November, but his testimony and affidavit have been leaked. In it, he writes:

Reflecting on the period 2009 to 2017 now, it would appear that I was witness to events, some of which are set out below, and it seems an unwitting member of an Executive in the earlier part of this period, which was misled, lied to, manipulated and abused in order to:

  • Benefit a few families and individuals;

  • Release the worst forms of recklessness and corruption;

  • Rob ordinary people of schools, clinics and education;

  • Abuse and decimate key institutions of our democracy: including SARS, the Hawks, NPA, Eskom, Denel, Transnet.

While Gordhan’s testimony presents a long tail of State Capture, there are still gaps and he has recommended that the commission use its powers to expose the gaps.

Gordhan has entreated the commission to use its powers to investigate the Energy Security Cabinet Subcommittee (ESCS) which Zuma chaired and which ultimately pushed through approval for a nuclear deal in December 2015.

This sub-committee consisted of former Cabinet members including the Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Minister of State Security David Mahlobo; Minister of Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlholdi, and Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene.

It included current Cabinet members Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel and Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

In 2016, at a Cabinet meeting, a ministerial task team was set up under then Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to investigate the decision of the leading banks to close the Gupta family’s business and personal accounts.

I chose not to attend the meetings of the task team nor to participate in its actions, because I was of the view, confirmed in legal advice, that members of the executive cannot interfere in the contractual relationships between banks and their customers,” writes Gordhan.

He adds that the commission should investigate these meetings to explore whether “Mr Zwane had the full backing and support of former President Zuma in pursuing the task team’s objective of undermining and maligning the stance adopted by myself and National Treasury to the closure of the bank accounts…”.

When Gordhan went to court for a declaratory order that he was legally bound not to interfere in banker-client relationships, he included an annexure of 72 suspicious transactions on Gupta accounts flagged by the Financial Intelligence Centre.

Gordhan writes:

I submit to the commission that it should ‘follow the money’ and request a full account of all transactions by any Gupta-related company and related individuals that have gone through bank accounts. By doing so it will be better placed to determine which activities were related to criminality and malfeasance. This will assist state-owned enterprises and taxpayers to recover funds lost in this process.” DM


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