A bitter war of words erupted between Pravin Gordhan and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) yesterday, both inside and outside the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Parktown.
As the EFF demanded Gordhan step down, the public enterprises minister took the fight back to his detractors, saying the infamous Gupta family knew he was not for sale and then indirectly challenging the EFF leaders to make allegations against him under oath and subject themselves to cross-examination at the commission.
EFF leader Julius Malema, addressing supporters outside the venue, claimed Gordhan’s daughter had a number of companies which did business with the government. He claimed the EFF had asked ministers and senior civil servants from the departments involved to confirm the extent of the business. The ones which replied confirmed the tenders allegedly won by Gordhan’s daughter’s companies were worth “at least R80 million”.
Malema provided no proof, instead saying journalists should investigate the issues raised in 33 questions about Gordhan, which were submitted to parliament by his party this month.
Earlier, EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu tweeted that “Anisha Gordhan in the past few weeks went around closing all her bank accounts, to hide the hundreds of millions she received as payments from government. It’s too late because we will still reveal all the details”.
Gordhan’s spokesperson, Adrian Lackay, emphatically denied the claims.
“Yet another mutation of allegations. How would Floyd have knowledge of, or access to, an individual’s banking information? In a legal manner at least,” said Lackay. “She received no tenders or financial benefits from any government business. The allegations are patently false and malicious.”
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the sustained attacks by the EFF on Gordhan suggested it was “hellbent” on stopping the work Gordhan had begun in tackling corruption.
“The #EFF has become defenders of corruption and looting,” Jackson said on Twitter yesterday.
Malema unleashed a gush of vitriol in describing Gordhan as being “anti-African”, “a state capture enabler” and “a corrupt liar”, who should follow in the footsteps of former president Jacob Zuma and former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene by resigning.
“An attack on Pravin Gordhan is an attack on white monopoly capital because Pravin is a dog of white monopoly capital,” Malema said. “We must hit the dog until the owner comes out.”
Malema also accused Gordhan of going into state-owned companies and removing “all the black excellence because he hates Africans”.
Gordhan responded to his critics with a broadside from the stand at the inquiry, saying: “Those who are making allegations outside this forum should make them under oath and subject themselves to cross-examination. I am not a commodity for sale and think the Guptas learnt that, too.
“I don’t make deals for jobs. I don’t make deals with smugglers or taxpayers, or submit to intimidation or bullying. I’m not accountable to bullies.”
Setting the record straight on encounters with the Guptas, Gordhan told the commission he has neither had a one-on-one meeting with the Guptas, nor had he visited the family at their Saxonwold family home.
“The Guptas gave an impression that they were the sole channel to gain access to people in power in South Africa. In this way, they were able to manage patronage. At no stage would I have entertained a meeting directly with the Guptas.”
His cancellation of the post-budget The New Age breakfast and his refusal to intervene in the reopening of Gupta business bank accounts, displayed his attitude towards the family.
As part of a campaign to pressure him to leave National Treasury, Gordhan said that in 2016, he had read reports that he faced imminent arrest from the Hawks. Before delivering the budget in parliament, Gordhan was sent 27 questions by the specialised crime unit.
The police harassment was “an unrestrained attack on democracy” which led to his family being in distress, he said.