CAPE TOWN – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Wednesday night he hoped the grave economic fallout from the axing of his predecessor, Nhlanhla Nene, would not repeat itself.
Speaking in Cape Town during a debate organised by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gordhan tackled corruption and rent-seeking, sluggish economic growth, and also briefly addressed a summons sent to him by the Hawks to present himself to them on Thursday to sign a warning statement in connection with the alleged setting up of a rogue spy unit within the SA Revenue Service (Sars) when he was commissioner.
“Our job since December 2015 has been to work with business and labour leaders and ensure that the kind of gloom that 9/12 introduced doesn’t repeat itself. I hope it certainly doesn’t do that now,” Gordhan said referring to the day President Jacob Zuma fired Nene.
Gordhan briefly read out his statement on why he would not heed the summons to report to the specialised Directorate Priority Crime Investigation, better known as the Hawks, but did not expand on it.
READ: ‘I do not intend to present myself’ to the Hawks: Gordhan
The minister did, however, tackle corruption and patronage, even invoking the founding father of democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
“Anybody in power can attract forces of patronage. The question is, is there enough transparency, is there enough of a spotlight and are the people who are supposed to keep us accountable actually doing so and making sure that we remain honest to what we say on public platforms and do the right things that we are supposed to do?,” said Gordhan.
“Mandela’s ANC wouldn’t tolerate much of what we are talking about.”
Gordhan did not spare the private sector, insisting that if it cut out corrupt practices many of the country’s problems, such as higher education funding, could be tackled with ease.
“We can very easily pay for some of the things that we are pressured for at the moment – fees for university students that come from poor backgrounds … just stop some of the corruption that is going on,” he said.
“If you pay the right price for the coal that you buy, if your tenders are priced correctly … if you end even a quarter of that, you’ll get R30- to R40-billion that the poor will benefit from, so there’s no point in using the poor as a point of political rhetoric … you must be serious about solving the problem of poverty and unemployment and the way you do it is to stop the bloody nonsense and we can certainly do it.