A defiant former finance minister Pravin Gordhan on Saturday encouraged mass mobilisation in the wake of President Jacob Zuma’s much maligned Cabinet reshuffle that saw him and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas fired along with several other ministers.
Speaking at a memorial service in Johannesburg for anti-apartheid stalwart Ahmed Kathrada, Gordhan said “uncle Kathy” had left at a time when the country knew what the problem was and who the problem was.
“This propaganda channel last night said I am encouraging mass mobilisation. Yes, I am unashamedly encouraging mass mobilisation. We are encouraging mass mobilisation to ensure that people shall govern,” Gordhan said.
“If someone wants to report us to a disciplinary committee we will repeat these things at the NEC [national executive committee] meeting.”
This comes after television channel ANN7 on Friday ran stories alleging that Gordhan was on a drive to encourage mass mobilisation against Zuma’s government when he said “people should organise” during his last media address at the National Treasury as finance minister.
ANN7 is a 24-hour news channel owned by the controversial, wealthy, and politically connected Gupta family, who are close friends of Zuma. The Guptas were implicated in the public protector’s “State of Capture” report and are believed to wield massive influence over Cabinet appointments and dismissals, a prerogative of the president.
Gordhan opened up about the trouble he had been through as finance minister and how he tried to fend off capture of the Treasury by the Guptas.
He particularly mentioned state-owned arms manufacturer Denel in its battle with Treasury to get approval for a joint-venture with Gupta-linked company VR Laser Asia in a bid to create Denel Asia, as an example of state capture.
“We don’t know where these decisions are made. But then you should know something is wrong,” Gordhan said.
The Gupta business empire has been on the warpath against Treasury after all South African banks disassociated themselves from the Gupta businesses and closed their accounts. The Bank of China and India’s Bank of Baroda followed suit this year.
Gordhan was recalled earlier this week from an international investor roadshow in the United Kingdom and United States and was fired on Thursday, based on an alleged “intelligence report” claiming the trip was to sabotage Zuma’s government.
“The purpose of the international investor roadshow is to meet people who have R2 trillion leased to the South African government. The international investor roadshow is conducted twice a year, soon after the February budget speech and after the medium-term budget policy statement in November-October,” Gordhan explained.
“Now that intelligence report that resulted in our firing was a very unintelligent report. Watch out South Africa that we do not reduce ourselves to economic sabotage that could take another five years to recover from. You must connect the dots and see who does what and why they are doing it. Who stands to benefit?” he said.
Kathrada was buried on Wednesday at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg. Zuma did not attend the funeral and the memorial service, apparently “in compliance with the wishes of the family”.
Kathrada died on Tuesday at the age of 87 at the Donald Gordon Hospital in Johannesburg after a short illness following brain surgery.
His official memorial service organised by government and scheduled to take place on Saturday morning at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus was postponed indefinitely with no reasons given by the presidency.
The alternative memorial service was then organised by the Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela foundations and the South African Communist Party in Gauteng.
Gordhan said the cancellation of Kathrada’s official memorial was “spiteful” and the stalwart generation’s only fault was to stand against greed and promote national interest.
“The cancellation of the state memorial was petty and spiteful and without a shame. At this moment comrade Kathy would say let us unite and fight all the weaknesses in our movement,” Gordhan said.
The memorial was attended by many dignitaries and struggle veterans, including former finance minister Trevor Manuel, former president Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, African National Congress stalwarts, South African Communist Party leadership, and some Cabinet ministers.