Gordhan 'surprised' he is being equated to state capture looters

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. File picture.
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. File picture.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan says he is "surprised" that some people are seeking to "equate" him with those who stole billions of rand of public money at state-owned companies.

Gordhan was responding to questions from journalists in parliament ahead of the presentation of his budget vote on Thursday.

The journalists, among other things, wanted Gordhan to explain why he had cited the office of the public protector and its incumbent, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, as separate entities in his urgent court application seeking to interdict Mkhwebane's remedial action against him and set aside her adverse findings against him over his role in the establishment of the SARS "rogue unit".

Before responding directly on the matter, Gordhan said he was taken aback that there were some who sought to portray him in the same light as those accused of large-scale looting of public funds.

Gordhan said challenging Mkhwebane's reports against him did not amount to a refusal to be held accountable.

"I'm surprised that you want to equate me and the investigations that the public protector [is conducting] and the complaints that she's investigating, to equate me to people who committed R7bn of fraud at Transnet or cooked up the optimum coal supply chain at Eskom or agreed to the kind of deals they did with McKinsey or what they did to the revenue service [Sars]. There's no equation between the two," said Gordhan.

He added that he was "absolutely confident" he still had the full backing of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the rest of cabinet.

"The reason, on legal advice, that we draw a distinction on the Public Protector as the office and the Public Protector as the person is a very important distinction. Because you can have many structures that are defined in the constitution and their roles clearly defined (but) the occupant of the office can then decide to use that office for particular purposes.

"We've already had instances of that over the recent past, the last five, six, seven years. So we seem to have short memories about state capture," Gordhan said.

The former finance minister said Mkhwebane had also relied on fake reports to arrive at her findings against him, and she had failed to provide legal reasons why she had decided to probe the Sars "rogue unit" from seven years ago, as required the Public Protector Act.

"We have lawyer after lawyer, including judge after judge, saying nothing improper was done... now we're back and say something improper was done.

"In fact, the public finds it quite ridiculous that something that might have happened seven, eight or ten years ago is now revived in a systematic way, at the behest of the same individuals in order to make sure, which is to fix SOEs is interfered with. And the question is: why the interference with this business we have to do?

"I'm not doing anything extraordinary. I'm exercising my rights under the law and under the constitution, just as much as the current occupant thinks she's doing the same as well."


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