Adriaan Basson

Decoding Pravin Gordhan’s extraordinary statement

2016-05-18 07:15

Adriaan Basson

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan released a hard-hitting media statement on Tuesday night after reports appeared that he was about to be arrested by the Hawks.

News24 editor Adriaan Basson decodes Gordhan’s statement further for the benefit of our readers who want to understand this sorry mess.

Pravin Gordhan (PG): The recent media reports about my arrest - imminent or not - have been extremely distressing for my family and me.

I cannot believe that I am being investigated and could possibly be charged for something I am completely innocent of. I have answered the questions submitted by the Hawks, and have not heard from them. I was not aware of any impending charges or further investigations until the reports in the past weekend.

Adriaan Basson (AB): I actually believe the Hawks are planning to arrest me. This worries me deeply because the charges I will be arrested for are trumped up. Why did they bother sending me 27 questions a few days before my budget speech? To embarrass or detract me from trying to save the economy after 9/12’s mess? I answered their questions fully and didn’t hear from them again. I thought this meant there was nothing left to investigate.

PG: It is indeed true, that no one is above the law. But no one should be subjected to the manipulation of the law and agencies for ulterior motives.

AB: I don’t regard myself as being above the law, but what is happening here is a manipulation of law enforcement agencies for political purposes. The Hawks are being manipulated to investigate fake charges against me.

PG: Throughout my 45 years of activism, I have worked for the advancement of the ANC, our Constitution and our democratic government. I would never have thought that individuals within the very agencies of this government would now conspire to intimidate and harass me and my family.

AB: As a key figure in the struggle and negotiations with the National Party, I believed in the ANC of Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu that stood for democracy and human rights. I embody the ANC of the struggle; the ANC who struggled for equal rights before one Constitution. I struggled for equality before the law and fair treatment by the police and prosecuting authority. I would have never thought that the police, through an apartheid-era policeman (Berning Ntlemeza), and the revenue service, through a relative of President Jacob Zuma (Tom Moyane, whose “family sister” Kate Mantsho was married to Zuma), would conspire against me and my family.  

PG: I have met with my lawyers to obtain their advice. They will be approaching the leadership of both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority for further information and clarity.

AB: I’m not taking this lying down. I will meet you in court if you persist with these so-called charges.

PG: I worked together with over ten thousand staff for a decade to transform SARS into a world class revenue and customs administration. We built the revenue service into an efficient and effective institution that provided the increasing fiscal resources to enable government to provide social grants. SARS and the specialist investigative units therein operated within the law during my time as the Commissioner.

AB: You will not destroy my legacy this easily. I still have over ten thousand loyal former colleagues at Sars who’ve got my back. Unlike other dysfunctional government departments and agencies, we built Sars into a shining light of service delivery. Without a well-run Sars, you will not be able to pay out social grants – a bedrock of the ANC’s election campaign. The so-called rogue unit was not an illegal intelligence unit, but a legal specialist investigative unit.

PG: The malicious rumours and accusations about "espionage" activities are false and manufactured for other motives.

AB: No “espionage” took place at Sars under my leadership. I dare you to provide proof of this. These are false allegations, manufactured by Moyane (who laid the charge) and given credence by Ntlemeza (who is driving the investigation for the Hawks) for political purposes. The ultimate aim is to remove me from Treasury and appoint a pliable finance minister in my place.

PG: There have also been reports of business people claiming inside knowledge of or influence over state institutions. If such reports are true, that alleged conduct will undermine the integrity and honesty within the Treasury or other key institutions.

AB: The Guptas are back and they want me out. They reportedly already have their successor lined-up for the job. And Zuma’s former adviser, Sifiso Buthelezi, is reportedly going to replace my deputy Mcebisi Jonas, who called the Guptas out on their supposed running of the state from Saxonwold. I hope these rumours are false, but I doubt it.

PG: It is particularly painful to me, and I’m sure to many earnest democrats, to witness this unrestrained attack on honest and hardworking people and the institutions meant to strengthen our democracy. Millions of people will pay the price (there will be less money to relieve poverty and support job creation programmes) if this subversion of democracy is left unrestrained and unchallenged.

AB: I’m not the only honest and hardworking ANC cadre being targeted by those who want to capture the state. Others like Anwa Dramat, Mxolisi Nxasana and Robert McBride were also persecuted for doing the right thing. If Zuma and the Guptas get their way, and I am replaced at Treasury by a pliable minister of finance, the country and particularly the poor will suffer dire consequences. Taxpaying South Africans will lose faith in the system and investors will pull their money from the economy. This will result in less taxes being collected by Sars, which mean less jobs, houses, schools and clinics.

PG: I appeal to all South Africans to protect the National Treasury staff, who have diligently, honestly and skilfully served the national interest to the best of their ability. They are recognized worldwide for their professionalism and competence.

AB: My staff and I no longer have the political protection of Zuma and the ANC. It is now up to normal citizens, activists and civic society organisations to defend National Treasury from being captured by Zuma and the Guptas.

- Basson is editor of News24. Follow him on Twitter: @adriaanbasson

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