Speaking at an event to mark the renaming of the Government Communication Information System (GCIS) media center in Pretoria as the Ronnie Mamoepa media center, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, expressed the view that the battle between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan is due to the party’s corruption and the minister’s attempts to stop it.
“I can tell you why they hate Pravin with a passion is because he fought corruption in the state owned entities, then stepped on the corrupt toes of the cronies of some EFF people,” Mthembu said.
“That is why people are so angry, that’s why they wanted him to be taken out of cabinet. Because where he saw corruption as the minister responsible for state-owned entities he did not pretend as if corruption doesn’t exist”.
This follows the EFF threatening Gordhan in parliament on Thursday, with the party’s MP Sam Matiase calling him a “constitutional delinquent” before he and 14 other EFF members tried to invade Gordhan’s lectern. Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip John Steenhuisen stood in front of Gordhan for protection, causing him to insist: “No, no, no, they must touch me. They must touch me.”
This took place before the delivery of Gordhan’s public enterprises budget speech, in an outburst that had the party’s entire caucus ejected from parliament and earned them accusations of “fascist populism” from Gordhan.
The minister was not alone in his condemnation, with Steenhuisen calling the party’s behaviour the “grossest violations of parliamentary privilege I’ve ever seen”.
Politicians including the ANC’s Bheki Hadebe, the NFP’s Shaik Emam, the IFP’s Narend Singh and the ACDP’s Steve Swart voiced agreement with Steenhuisen’s comment.
The “constitutional delinquent” insult has become a popular one among EFF politicians. Party leader Julius Malema used the term during the debate that followed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s third state of the nation (Sona) address, which took place on June 20.
Malema took exception to Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan’s inclusion on the list of speakers who spoke in parliament on June 26.
“I don’t think it would be advisable for Mr Gordhan to address us,” Malema said, citing public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report finding that found Gordhan had irregularly approved the early retirement of Ivan Pillay from the South African Revenue Service (Sars) while finance minister.
“This is not a point of order,” deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli replied.
“And you allow a constitutional delinquent to speak,” Malema continued, before Tsenoli cut him short, telling him that he was making a “political statement” rather than rising on a genuine point of order.
Since the release of the report referenced on this occasion, Mkhwebane has again accused Gordhan of violating the constitution in another report, which found that the minister had lied about having met with the controversial Gupta family, that the so-called “rogue unit” at Sars existed, and that Gordhan probably knew about its existence.
(Background reporting, Amanda Watson)