Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Tuesday took a swipe at his detractors, telling the state capture commission of inquiry that he did not submit to bullies.
The minister is testifying for a second day at the commission of inquiry into state capture, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, being held in Johannesburg.
Gordhan told the commission he was not for sale and would not answer to bullies.
”Those who are making allegations, particularly outside this forum, should come to the commission and say what they have to say under oath and subject themselves to cross-examination. I’m not a commodity for sale, and I think the Guptas learnt that too.”
As Gordhan testified, echoes of chanting and singing reverberated through the inquiry venue as the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Black First Land First movement protested outside. The parties are demanding that Gordhan resign. The EFF accused him of not being honest in parliament regarding his encounters with the controversial Gupta family and reported him to the public protector and Parliament’s Ethics Committee.
Gordhan then referred to his reappointment as finance minister by Zuma in 2015 just a few days after he had fired Nhlanhla Nene and brought in Des Van Rooyen. Zuma’s actions drew a public outcry and harsh market reaction from the markets. Fearing more economic repercussions, Zuma called Gordhan to a meeting in Pretoria on the evening of Sunday 13 December 13 2015 and asked him to replace Van Rooyen.
The minister said ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte phoned him and told him Zuma was set to request him to do something and that he should not refuse. The same request was made by Zuma’s deputy at the time, Cyril Ramaphosa, Gordhan said.
”During that conversation, the former president indicated that he was of the view that Mr Van Rooyen was suitable for the finance minister position, but others felt that the turmoil when markets re-opened on Monday could be even more serious if Van Rooyen was retained. The former president indicated that he wanted me to take over the position in order to calm the markets.”
Gordhan said he told Zuma that there were many qualified individuals to take over the ministry, such as former deputy finance minister Mcebisis Jonas and former minister Jabu Moleketi. After consulting with family and persuasion from Zuma, he accepted the post.
The minister said allegations that a deal was struck between him and Zuma in order for him to return as finance minister were false and malicious.
”The first point I want to make is that I was surprised that he [Zuma] wanted me back. I never lobbied for any job, politics is not a career for me. I am not tied to parliament to earn a living… this is a calling. I don’t rely on making deals… I do not make deals with smugglers or tax evaders… I do not submit to bullying. I submit to the electorate and am accountable to the political organisation that appointed me.”
Gordhan was at the time cooperative governance minister before his reappointment to the finance ministry. He told the commission that he was dealing with municipalities at the time and was enjoying the work ahead of the 2016 local government polls.
”The department was not functional so we managed to bring it back… so I didn’t want to get into changing jobs at that time.”
He said his first top items on the agenda at National Treasury was to attend to the ongoing dire financial situation at SAA and the role of its then chairperson Dudu Myeni, the nuclear deal, and former tax boss Tom Moyane’s role at Sars.