A campaign against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan intensified this week and appears to be well planned at the highest level by his opponents.
This followed rumours that Gordhan’s opponents have a fightback strategy against his ongoing campaign to clean up the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) implicated in corruption and state capture.
Recently, Gordhan reported widespread procurement irregularities at Transnet after he had earlier moved to clear Eskom and SA Airways of executives suspected of involvement in graft.
Some chief executives and senior executives at various SOEs, including Eskom, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and Transnet, have accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of using state resources to fight his opponents and get rid of them.
On Monday, a group of youths accompanied by church leaders protested outside the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters demanding that Gordhan resign and leaver Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama and former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni alone.
Earlier this month, the new Transnet board announced its intention to suspend Gama, chief procurement officer Thamsanqa Jiyane and supply chain manager Lindiwe Mdletshe. They had until this week to respond to their notices.
The protesting group, understood to be called Radical Economic Transformation (RET) Champion – most of whom claimed to come from ANC branches and civil society around Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, with others from the Eastern Cape and Gauteng – also hurled insults at Transnet board chairperson Popo Molefe.
IOL has reported that RET Champion accuses Gordhan of being a law unto himself.
The group’s Nkosentsha Shezi said in a video message prior to the protest: “If Gordhan is not stopped in his trail, the ANC may lose credibility in the face of both black business and the working class community. Pravin Gordhan has become a law unto himself.
“He founded an illegal and rogue unit at Sars and he has continued to employ his children, friends and associates in government entities at the expense of the people who voted the ANC to power,” alleged Shezi.
He claimed Gordhan was directing Molefe and his board to suspend Gama as CEO “despite impressive results and unproven allegations”.
“He (Gordhan) wants to replace him (Gama) with lackeys who will capture Transnet on his behalf.”
Gordhan was part of the United Democratic Front and the Natal Indian Congress and was one of the ANC negotiators in the pre-1994 constitutional negotiations, and has a long history in the struggle, a fact none of the protesters have recognised.
Some of their placards read: “Hands off Dudu Myeni”, “Pravin Gordhan must go now”, “Pravin, you touched Gama, that was the biggest mistake”, “Pravin hates blacks”, and “Hands off Gama”. But some of the protesters were unable to explain the contents of the placards and did not even know who Gama was, nor the story around him.
Speaking for the protesters, Bishop Sandile Ndlela of the Durban United Methodist Church accused Gordhan of being an “untouchable” person.
“He hates black excellence. He’s a dictator. He has got apartheid; he wants to chase blacks away and replace them with Indians.”
When asked about allegations levelled against Gama and Myeni, Ndlela could, however, also not explain, and nor could another member, Mxo Ngobese.
Instead, Ngobese claimed Gordhan had been “doing this” since the Mandela administration, although Gordhan never served in that administration.
Neither Gordhan nor Molefe could be reached for comment.
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said it was not surprising that Gordhan was being targeted by apparent Zuma loyalists.
“The Zuma group believe that they are being targeted because of him [Gordhan]; they think he is out for revenge against them,” Fikeni said.
Fikeni said that, as Gordhan had occupied strategic government positions for long, such as being the Sars head, finance minister, and now public enterprises minister, he was used to being in the line of fire from those who wanted to benefit from state resources.
“Those positions carried huge monies and influence, and if you are in those positions, whether you are Pravin or [Minister Malusi] Gigaba, you will be targeted. Gordhan is seen as a bulwark against Zuma, and therefore they would want to see him fall,” he said.
Fikeni said the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture would strengthen Gordhan’s hand if the process found against those suspected of involvement in state capture.