D-Day for Gordhan: He played ‘a pivotal role’ to stop Zuptas

D-Day for Gordhan: He played ‘a pivotal role’ to stop Zuptas

D-Day for Gordhan: He played 'a pivotal role' to stop Zuptas
D-Day for Gordhan: He played ‘a pivotal role’ to stop Zuptas

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan played a crucial role in protecting National Treasury and the fiscus, former colleagues say amidst an EFF campaign to discredit him.

Both Lungisa Fuzile, former director general at Treasury, and Ismail Momoniat, a deputy director general, say Gordhan defended Treasury from former president Jacob Zuma and other factions trying to gain undue influence over the national finances. Gordhan, minister of public enterprises, will on Monday take the witness stand at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

Gordhan has come under increasing pressure recently as he prepares to give his version of events around capture to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. He was summoned to appear in front of the Public Protector last week to answer questions about a pension payout by SARS to its former deputy commissioner, while the EFF has also launched a campaign against him.

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The EFF has accused Gordhan of running a spying unit and that he is plotting against the party. The red berets are also planning to picket outside the building in Parktown, Johannesburg, where the commission is sitting.

Fuzile, who quit as director general shortly after Malusi Gigaba was installed by Zuma as finance minister in April last year, says Gordhan in many cases stopped the creep of state capture and there where he couldn’t, he slowed it down. “There were a lot of bad deals in the pipeline which required Treasury’s approval…lots of terrible stuff…and Pravin either stopped it or he delayed it.”

According to Momoniat, those deals included proposed agreements around the acquisition of nuclear power stations and Eskom.

Fuzile says after Zuma dismissed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and following the disastrous four days when the unknown Des van Rooyen was appointed minister of finance, Gordhan helped “stem the bleeding”.

“The currency stabilised after he returned to Treasury and the sudden spike in government bond yields also normalised once the markets saw that someone of Gordhan’s credibility was in charge. If the situation (with Van Rooyen) was allowed to continue things would have been much worse,” Fuzile told News24.

He added that Gordhan worked hard during 2016 and the early part of 2017 to help restore investor confidence in South Africa, even though the climate was unfavourable.

“Gordhan initiated dialogue between business, labour and government to seek out a solution to reignite economic growth. It was he who spoke to the credit ratings agencies and helped prevent further downgrades (in June 2016). But Gordhan was also the person who showed the public that there were people trying…” says Fuzile, now the CEO of Standard Bank South Africa.

Momoniat, who has also been in the EFF’s sights and whose brief at Treasury includes tax policy, says: “Gordhan played a pivotal role in the fight to stop Zuma corruption and looting. Throughout that period we were under siege from Zuma, nuclear, Eskom…he had to defend Treasury and the country’s credit rating.”

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A senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added: “He was a credible voice in the midst of the political chaos Zuma was afflicting on our country and our economy. If he had not been re-appointed in December 2015, we would long ago have been downgraded by all three of the major ratings agencies. At least now, in 2018 under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, we still have a fighting chance to avoid that calamity.”

Gordhan and his advisors have, since last Wednesday’s appearance before the Public Protector, been preparing for Monday’s testimony. According to his sworn statement, which leaked last week, he will detail his relationship with Zuma and explain how the then president interfered in the work of Treasury.

The EFF has however latched onto Gordhan’s admission in his statement that he met the Guptas on a number of occasions, in particular a 2010 meeting between him and a wealthy Indian businessman who wanted to invest in MTN and which was attended by Ajay Gupta. Gordhan neglected to indicate Gupta’s presence when asked about it in a parliamentary question and the EFF says he needs to account for “lying to Parliament”.

Gordhan’s testimony will begin at 10:00.