Zuma backers frustrated as Gordhan stands firm

2016-10-16 18:00
President Jacob Zuma

President Jacob Zuma

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Pravin Gordhan’s battle strategy against the fraud and theft charges laid against him this week has frustrated President Jacob Zuma’s backers in the ANC, but the finance minister’s fate still awaits the outcome of discussions at the party’s top six meeting tomorrow.

Zuma, who has previously expressed his confidence in Gordhan, was expected to be outnumbered in terms of support for the finance minister.

At least four of the ANC’s top six leaders, except for Zuma and deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, were seen to be sympathetic to Gordhan, which comes after a strong consensus in the last national executive committee (NEC) meeting that the ANC should rather focus on uniting its constituencies to survive the 2019 general elections.

“When the announcement was made, everybody was worried that whatever is said will damage the minister and then he will be compelled to resign, or that the president will release him,” a member of the ANC NEC said on Friday.

“That is why Pravin said he is willing to let the matter go to court, because he can see that the matter is not damaging to him. The nature of the charge is usually what forces people to step down or be fired, even [ANC treasurer-general] Zweli Mkhize said after the charges were lodged that Public Finance Management Act deviations were a common problem for accounting officers.

However, another NEC member backing Zuma said Gordhan must “do the correct thing and step down”.

“He is summoned and there is a case against him, so why is he defended so much? The issue is that the anti-Zuma group wants to create a crisis that is not there,” he said.

He said Gordhan was “supposed to voluntarily say that, as a disciplined cadre of the ANC, he knows the rules and he will step aside until the case is finalised”.

“But, he is saying: ‘I’m going nowhere, so fire me Mr President.’ You see, it is now personal and no longer organisational,” he said.

He said ANC Western Cape chair Marius Fransman had criminal charges laid against him and the party’s national working committee “was quick to remove him because he does not share the same view of 2017 with them” – referring to the ANC 2017 leadership succession race.

A prominent ANC branch leader in Gauteng, who is also a senior national government official, said every time the ANC got to the second term of a president, these conflicts happened because the space for new leaders to emerge became open. He said the space this time around was also more complex because the ANC was electorally weakened after the August municipal elections.

“The party has no choice but to go populist because they cannot keep this neoliberal economy policy thing. ANC branches have said the problem is that poverty has increased – we have been waiting for houses and people have no jobs. So even at a basic level, the ANC seems to have no plan,” he said.

He said the ANC was starting to realise that, “to retain power, we cannot continue with this fiscal consolidation and so we need to get more populist”.

“But capital also understands that being populist will hit their pocket, because the simplest thing that we will do is raise taxes and they will come from business. They are afraid of that.”

He said “the removal of Pravin and the takeover of Treasury by someone who will push the populist state of the ANC would leave capital weakened”.

“But the ANC cannot survive without being a bit populist. It is are either going to borrow more or raise taxes. But it will need more money to fix certain things and, if the status remains the same, they are gone in 2019.”

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