The ANC Youth League is right – Gordhan must go
FOR ONCE the ANC Youth League has it right. Pravin Gordhan must immediately stand down as minister of finance.
Well, I think that’s what the ANCYL is demanding. Its public statements are habitually so incoherent and jargon-ridden that, like those from the ANC Women’s League which also wants Gordhan gone, it is difficult sometimes to know what exactly they are trying to say.
For instance, a fortnight ago the ANCYL bizarrely described Public Protector Thuli Madonsela as being a “popcorn” who is advancing a US agenda of regime change. In the same press release, it inexplicably referred to controversial SAA chair Dudu Myeni, who consistently denies she is one of President Jacob Zuma’s lovers, as Dudu MyeniZuma.
The ANCYL wants Gordhan out of the cabinet so the “economy can stabilise”, explaining that overseas investors are absent because of the “cloud around Gordhan’s head”. The ANCWL, in its own gobbledygook release, says the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decision to prosecute Gordhan “clearly indicate that there is no individual subjected to the manipulation of the law and law enforcement agencies to ulterior political motives”.
These responses, seemingly compiled using a random word generator, are pretty much the standard position taken by that section of the ANC which has succumbed to state capture. They argue the moment there is a criminal charge against Gordhan, he is honour-bound to resign.
But, with rare exceptions, this is a departure from standard ANC practice. Whatever the organisation’s ethical position might be theoretically, those accused of crimes – sometimes very serious ones – have mostly been allowed to continue in their jobs, shielded by “innocent until proven guilty”.
There is a notable exception. Jacob Zuma was forced by former president Thabo Mbeki to resign as his deputy. This followed upon Zuma being implicated in the conviction of his patron, Schabir Shaik, on corruption and fraud charges. Zuma also resigned his parliamentary seat.
Although Mbeki dressed up the dismissal of Zuma in high-toned morality, it had little to do with the principles of good governance. He had long wanted to be rid of Zuma. Unfortunately for Mbeki, the ploy boomeranged, leading eventually to his being replaced by Zuma.
The moves by the state-capture faction of the ANC against Gordhan, using the NPA as its pawn, are similarly politically tainted. It is a group which is desperate to be rid of this one irksome man who stands between them and the Treasury vaults.
There the similarity ends. Zuma eventually was charged with 783 counts of corruption, fraud and racketeering, all of which he has been desperately ducking and diving to avoid facing in court. In contrast, the single charge against Gordhan is exceedingly flimsy.
The merits of the case against Gordhan are irrelevant. They are for the judiciary to decide. What is immediately important is to abide by an established practice in successful democracies – that public figures charged with serious offences should not continue to occupy powerful jobs.
Gordhan, a self-proclaimed man of honour and virtue, should walk that talk and relinquish his position. In doing so, he will render South Africa an incalculable service, for he will make it well nigh impossible for the ANC in future to shield accused officials and representatives.
Nor does it mean surrendering the field to Gordhan’s foes. There is an adroit political manoeuvre that would satisfy honour while stymying the state-capture gang.
The solution is not to resign, but simply to take leave of absence until the issue is resolved. The ministry will then be left in the capable hands of Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas.
Obviously, this is not a long-term solution. It needn’t be, for there are already signals aplenty that such an arrangement would swiftly become redundant.
Legal experts, except for NPA head Shaun Abrahams, are virtually unanimous that Gordhan is unlikely to be convicted. Indeed, it is unlikely the alleged offence – approving an early retirement package for a former colleague and the man’s subsequent reappointment on a contractual basis, which happened only after consulting the Public Service Commission on the propriety of doing so – is even a criminal offence.
The shaky legal nature of the Gordhan prosecution has quickly become apparent. Only a day after announcing it amid great fanfare, Abrahams was back-pedalling furiously. On Wednesday he told Parliament he was “more than willing” to review the matter if anybody asked him to.
Gordhan should, for now, step into the wings. When he soon enough returns to centre stage, both his own position and the prospects of eventual good governance in SA will have been immeasurably strengthened.