Gordhan comes close to tears over Hawks probe

2016-06-10 22:17
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Bloomberg)

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Johannesburg - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan came close to tears when he was asked about the Hawks investigation into him over an intelligence unit in the SA Revenue Services set up during his time as tax commissioner.

Last month there were reports that he faced imminent arrests.

"I haven't stolen one cent of public money," an emotional Gordhan told the audience at Daily Maverick's The Gathering late on Friday.

"When you find yourself in that sort of…," he said, before pausing to swallow. "Sorry, I'm a bit emotional," he said, before pausing again, eliciting drawn-out applause from the audience of professionals, political supporters and opinion-makers.

After the extended applause, he continued, "I have nothing to hide, and nothing to worry about."

He said if there was any wrongdoing to expose, South Africa's courts would do so.

'What about your job?'

Gordhan, who was otherwise in an upbeat mood jokingly confirmed that he would still be in his job by next week, saying this was one thing investors often asked him about. South Africa recently narrowly escaped a ratings downgrade to junk status.

"People have asked me 'what about your job', and I say 'I am here, I've been given a job to do and will continue to do it'. And they believe me!"

Asked by the Daily Maverick's Ranjeni Munusamy if he had the political support for the job he was doing, he said, "I'm still in the job, and I think next week I'll be in the job as well."

He, however, conceded that it was a legitimate question "given the events we had over the past few months and particularly in December".

Gordhan was referring to the sudden removal of his predecessor, Nhlanhla Nene, and his replacement, for three days, with Des van Rooyen. After an outcry Gordhan was appointed finance minister and Van Rooyen moved to the co-operative governance ministry.

He said the internal problems would be put aside, and the Presidency and finance ministry would issue statements reassuring all concerned that they supported each other. "We will continue to serve and will continue to appeal that we need everybody’s help to build a better South Africa."

He asked the public to "klap" ["smack"] government when they didn't do their job.

He said the public should hold government to account all the time.

'Building a different narrative'

"Remind us that the dynamism in our democratic system works," he said. "As the public and the media goes to sleep, others will have fun." He said this counted for keeping corporates and executives to account as well.

When asked about his previous "retirement" plans, before he was moved to the co-operative governance ministry in 2014, Gordhan put it down to "being philosophical in old age".

He said his family, who were in the audience, "would be very happy if I say yes there is something else I want to do".

"Running around in meetings and being accountable to you [the media and public] here is tough, but I have to do it as democrats in a system," he joked.

"The last few months have been difficult in many ways, but it is to contribute to building a different narrative, a coalition of positive South Africans who want to contribute to the country and share skills and wisdom to make a difference," he said.

He said he had received "fantastic feedback" and he hoped South Africa would go through the next six months until the next ratings agency visit, to "win South Africa the next 18 months of peace so that we can tackle the other economic problems".

Read more on:    hawks  |  pravin gordhan  |  johannesburg  |  local elections 2016

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