The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stepped up their campaign against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday by trying to prevent him from delivering his department’s budget vote speech, which resulted in the red berets being physically ejected from parliament.
Gordhan responded by accusing the party of fascist populism and called on them to own up to any role they may have had in the VBS Mutual Bank scandal.
“They better adopt a different approach… if they have stolen money from a bank or anywhere else they should own up to it.”
This came some two hours after Gordhan told a briefing it was vital for those who were opposing government’s anti-corruption drive at state-owned enterprises to be exposed, and included the EFF in the equation.
He said troubled state-owned enterprises could and should play an important role in reviving the economy but for this to happen, those obstructing the process had to be outed and stopped.
The minister said apart from billions lost directly by parastatals, up to R50 billion was lost in revenue by the South African Revenue Services (Sars) as a result of the hollowing out by state capture, the massive rent-seeking scandal that defined the administration of former president Jacob Zuma.
Gordhan said the department now had nearly 3,000 forensic reports detailing the looting and destabilising of parastatals and would work diligently towards the prosecution of those involved and the recovery of funds.
“If the fightback against the kind of changes that we are trying to make to stop the malfeasance, to get rid of the corruption, to clean up the procurement lines, to get the cost structures in each of these entities appropriately balanced, if we get that right, without the kind of interference that we are seeing at the moment, then we should be on a fairly good footing in the next 18 to 24 months,” he said.
“And that is why exposing the fightback, exposing the proponents of the fightback, is an extremely important thing for the public to understand and for us to do and we call on good South Africans to join us in making sure that important assets of the state become productive on the one hand and become positive contributors to our economy on the other hand.”
The remarks come a day after Gordhan, in a court affidavit, accused Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane of, wittingly or unwittingly, helping the cause of those seeking to perpetuate state capture.
The minister has asked the court for an interdict to halt the implementation of remedial action Mkhwebane ordered against him pending a full review of her finding that he flouted the law in the appointment of an intelligence unit within the South African Revenue Service.
Gordhan has maintained that the unit was not established illegally, and stressed in Thursday’s briefing that he had been vindicated by more than one inquiry.
In his court papers, he singled out the EFF as finding itself on the wrong side of the war for political renewal and unity.
Asked on Thursday who he believed should be exposed, Gordhan again cited the party led by Julius Malema.
The EFF on Thursday announced via a media statement that it would join in the court defence of Mkhwebane, and accused Gordhan of “bloated egoism (sic)”, saying he mistakenly believed he deserved special treatment from the legal system.
The strife between the EFF and Gordhan erupted two hours later when the party’s Sam Matiase interrupted the minister as he began delivering his budget vote address.
Matiase called Gordhan a “constitutional delinquent” and said he should not be allowed to speak.
As several other EFF MPs rose to support him, presiding officer Grace Boroto asked if they all took the same view and ordered them to leave the house.
“All honourable members please leave the house!”
She then called in security staff to remove them, resulting in shoving and pushing in room E249 where the debate was taking place.
Gordhan remained quiet throughout the incident but later said: “What you have witnessed is a defence of state capture.”
He said the party’s behaviour begged a question as to what they had to hide and did not want to answer for.
“Intimidation of this kind is not going to intimidate me… it is not going to stop us. This is something we are not going to give in to. We survived apartheid, we will survive this fascist populism.”
The EFF has denied reports that it pocketed R1.3 million in some of the fraudulent transactions that led to the failure of VBS.
– African News Agency (ANA)