TEAM ZUMA TO GORD­HAN: NO AR­REST, JUST CHILL

Se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial says: He is not go­ing any­where. It is just para­noia on his part. There is noth­ing that war­rants his ar­rest

CityPress - - Front Page - SETUMO STONE and HLENGIWE NHLABATHI news@city­press.co.za

Di­vi­sions over the fu­ture of Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han are deep­en­ing within the gov­ern­ment and ANC al­liance, with hard­line po­si­tions be­ing taken by those who back him and those who sup­port Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, in what is seen as a bat­tle for con­trol of the na­tion’s purse. Those sym­pa­thetic to Zuma warned this week that, although Gord­han would not be ar­rested or fired any time soon, he could find him­self iso­lated if he con­tin­ued with his “para­noia”.

This week, Gord­han took the ex­tra­or­di­nary step of is­su­ing a state­ment ask­ing for pub­lic sup­port for Trea­sury, af­ter re­ports emerged that he was go­ing to be ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the set­ting up of an in­ves­tiga­tive unit at the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) while he was at its helm.

In the state­ment, fol­low­ing a Sun­day Times re­port about his im­mi­nent ar­rest, Gord­han ap­pealed to all South Africans to pro­tect Na­tional Trea­sury staff, “who have dili­gently, hon­estly and skil­fully served the na­tional in­ter­est to the best of their abil­ity”.

The pres­i­dency, along with state in­sti­tu­tions the Hawks and the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, have played down the prospect of an im­mi­nent ar­rest, but their de­nials have been met with wide­spread scep­ti­cism.

Although Zuma reap­pointed Gord­han as fi­nance min­is­ter in De­cem­ber – af­ter hav­ing ap­pointed Des van Rooyen to the post and then, un­der duress, re­de­ployed him – his re­cent com­ments about Van Rooyen hav­ing been “the most qual­i­fied” fi­nance min­is­ter sug­gest that the pres­i­dent is still bit­ter at hav­ing been forced to re­tract that ap­point­ment.

Zuma told the Gaut­eng ANC pro­vin­cial gen­eral coun­cil last week­end that he was shocked that his “com­rades” did not agree with Van Rooyen’s ap­point­ment on the grounds that there was no con­sul­ta­tion.

“There has never been a con­sul­ta­tion be­fore ap­point­ing a min­is­ter,” he said, adding that it was an in­di­ca­tion that many peo­ple in the ANC did not un­der­stand power.

SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) sec­ond deputy sec­re­tary Solly Ma­paila told City Press that there was a po­lit­i­cal agenda re­gard­ing how Gord­han was be­ing dealt with.

“When Pravin es­tab­lished this unit, he did it in good faith, for the sake of the coun­try,” he said.

“Our broad un­der­stand­ing is that the unit has been do­ing well and has been able to pen­e­trate and make ac­count­able some of the hard­ened syn­di­cates who are deal­ing in il­licit trade and ex­changes – and, as a re­sult, th­ese peo­ple are go­ing to pay some­thing to the state, and that is very im­por­tant.”

But se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials said that there was no im­mi­nent threat of Gord­han be­ing ar­rested or fired from his post, adding that “ei­ther he is gen­uinely scared, or he is be­ing mis­chievous”.

“He is not go­ing any­where. It is just para­noia on his part. There is noth­ing that war­rants his ar­rest.

“He was be­ing asked [by the Hawks] ques­tions as a for­mer ac­count­ing head of de­part­ment that the [Sars] unit be­longed to. All of us can be asked to ac­count for de­part­ments we worked for 10 years ago,” said an of­fi­cial.

Another said that Zuma could not be in com­pe­ti­tion with a Cab­i­net min­is­ter be­cause, as pres­i­dent, he con­trolled all de­part­ments.

How­ever, he cited con­cerns that Gord­han re­garded him­self as a “su­per­min­is­ter who was un­touch­able”, a sit­u­a­tion that could lead to his iso­la­tion.

Gord­han’s state­ment, on a gov­ern­ment let­ter­head, is said to have hard­ened at­ti­tudes to­wards him in some ANC quar­ters, as he was seen to be seek­ing pub­lic pro­tec­tion from his own party com­rades and gov­ern­ment col­leagues.

A deputy min­is­ter said that those threat­en­ing Gord­han were hop­ing enough pres­sure would be ap­plied on him to leave vol­un­tar­ily.

“Un­for­tu­nately, be­cause of the back­ing he has, it will be dif­fi­cult for him to be let go. He has a lot of back­ing even out­side the ANC,” said the deputy min­is­ter.

Another leader sym­pa­thetic to Gord­han said that this was “a fight Zuma is wag­ing be­cause he is not the one that ap­pointed him; big busi­ness did”.

“That is why Zuma would al­ways try to de­fend his de­ci­sion and ar­gue that he, in fact, had some­one more qual­i­fied for the job, and was in­stead chas­tised for it. “His pow­ers were ren­dered use­less.” He added that it was im­por­tant that in his last term in the pres­i­dency, Zuma had a pli­able per­son in the fi­nance de­part­ment “who can okay things and fa­cil­i­tate”.

“In this last term, we have big projects, so you need some­one you can trust, some­one you know will not be an ob­sta­cle.

“Be­cause of the way he was ap­pointed, it is not easy to trust him. It is not easy to be­lieve that he would be able to move fast in ap­prov­ing some of th­ese big projects that gov­ern­ment wants ef­fected,” he said.

The leader said that it would be dif­fi­cult for Zuma to re­move Gord­han be­cause “the ANC has con­sis­tently taken a clear po­si­tion that the rea­sons be­hind the lob­by­ing for his re­moval have noth­ing to do with his per­for­mance”.

Ma­paila said that the on­slaught against Gord­han was part of a pat­tern of tar­get­ing for­mer lib­er­a­tion fight­ers, such as for­mer Hawks chief Anwa Dra­mat, for­mer po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions head Robert McBride and Denel chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Riaz Saloo­jee.

“They are pur­sued with such gusto, you can­not be­lieve. But when others com­mit mis­takes, it is a nor­mal mis­take. You could see there is a tar­geted pos­ture with some of th­ese com­rades. Lit­er­ally, they are just be­ing forced out. We can­not keep quiet about some of th­ese things,” he said.

This week, the SACP al­leged that Hawks head Ma­jor-Gen­eral Mthandazo Ntle­meza was serv­ing po­lit­i­cal and fac­tional agen­das. The party said that Ntle­meza had been over­heard say­ing he had a “new man­date”, which they claimed was to ha­rass SACP mem­bers.

The Hawks de­nied the claim and chal­lenged the SACP to open a case and present their ev­i­dence in court.

Ma­paila said that the per­son who over­heard Ntle­meza would file an af­fi­davit to­mor­row.

A se­nior al­liance leader said the be­lief within the ANC was that the Gup­tas were now tar­get­ing the Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, which is chaired by Deputy Fi­nance Min­is­ter Mce­bisi Jonas. Jonas re­vealed ear­lier this year that the Gup­tas had tried to of­fer him for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene’s job shortly be­fore he was fired. He and Gord­han are seen by the fam­ily as “stum­bling blocks” to this agenda.

“The in­vest­ment cor­po­ra­tion is sit­ting on R1.7 tril­lion, and the Gup­tas would want to in­flu­ence the kind of in­vest­ments that money is di­rected to­wards,” he said.

Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Lindiwe Zulu said her com­ment ear­lier this week – that Gord­han should re­mem­ber, in pre­par­ing his bud­get, that this was not Eng­land – was not di­rected at the fi­nance min­is­ter, but at Trea­sury as a de­part­ment.

“Pravin has a de­part­ment, and the de­part­ment has got in­di­vid­u­als,” she said.

“Even in terms of ac­count­abil­ity, the di­rec­tors-gen­eral are ac­count­ing of­fi­cers. When some­thing does not go right, the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral does not go for the jugu­lar of the min­is­ter, he will go for the jugu­lar of the di­rec­tor-gen­eral,” she said.

Zulu said that she had had en­gage­ments with Gord­han about her con­cerns with the bud­get and the slow pace of trans­for­ma­tion. “I never used any strong lan­guage against him. Nowhere in my speech or any­where did I say Pravin Gord­han. I spoke about Trea­sury.”

She said that “the con­ver­sa­tion was about small busi­nesses and the money not enough, and it did not start with Pravin”. She also en­gaged Nene on the mat­ter. But Zuma sup­port­ers are adamant that Gord­han’s con­tin­ued stay in power plays into the hands of “white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal”, even go­ing as far as say­ing that the pres­sure ap­plied on the pres­i­dent to re­verse Van Rooyen’s ap­point­ment amounted to a coup.

“So who ap­pointed Pravin if our pres­i­dent is wash­ing his hands? He made it clear that the pow­ers that be came and chal­lenged his de­ci­sion,” said a KwaZulu-Na­tal in­sider.

“So, it means that Pravin was im­posed. Who are th­ese agents of power who can con­front our pres­i­dent and make him change his de­ci­sion? It means that there was a coup in South African pol­i­tics – lit­er­ally, a coup.”

A se­nior ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber said Trea­sury had long been cap­tured by big busi­ness and that Zuma had touched a nerve when he ap­pointed Van Rooyen.

“It was not an ac­ci­dent that, when the pres­i­dent ap­pointed Van Rooyen, the big white mo­nop­oly made noise and even with­drew money from South Africa. So we had to re­verse the de­ci­sion. The crisis was man­u­fac­tured,” he said.

PHOTO: GCIS

POWER PLAY Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma

PRES­SURE Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han

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