South Africans can no longer be 'free riders' of democracy – Gordhan

2017-07-31 22:10
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan. (Netwerk24)

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan. (Netwerk24)

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Pravin Gordhan warns recovery from corruption may take 10 years

2017-07-27 11:53

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan has criticised those sitting on the fence and allowing state capture to continue crippling the country's economy. WATCH

Johannesburg – South African citizens can no longer be "free riders" of democracy and need to actively work to secure state institutions, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan said on Monday evening.

He urged South Africans to either become whistleblowers or "find different forms of resistance".

"In today’s South Africa, there isn’t time for free riders, there isn’t time to sit on the fence, it is time to make decisions about what is right and what is wrong," Gordhan said.

"It is time to become actively involved and engaged and have the courage and the convictions of one’s conscience, to either become a whistleblower or find different forms of resistance to the wrong things that are happening in many of our state institutions at the moment."

Gordhan joined former public protector Thuli Madonsela at the Wits school of governance at a Democracy Works talk under the theme, "Democracy Defenders".

The event was live streamed on Democracy Work's Facebook page. During his keynote address, Gordhan called on civil society to "take to the streets" in "their masses" to keep government accountable.

"I am a firm believer… that it is the masses that make history and it is the masses that can stop history from moving in the wrong direction, but also strengthen the right directions in what we do," he said.

Gordhan expressed concern over the rapid decay of state institutions, but said the balance of favour is still on the side of "good guys".

"There seems to be no end to some people’s greed, a hundred million today is not enough. It has to be in the billions and it has to be stashed far away in some foreign account.

"Building institutions takes 10 to twenty years, if not more… destroying them, six months is enough as we have seen and we’ve got evidence of that in South Africa." He said, "the corrupt and greedy" are walking on a dangerous ground.


"They are starting to reintroduce racism in our debate, starting to reintroduce ethnicity and tribalism in our debates and in our political conduct ...

"There is a new sophistication that has accompanied these people as well as a fake narrative, fake digital media, fake twitter accounts…"

Fake news has entered a new stage where "storm troopers" are hired by the "corrupt" to fight against narratives they disagree with, Gordhan said.

"The second addition to fake narratives is storm troopers of the corrupt, so if they don’t like what you are going to say at a meeting like this, they’ll come here and disrupt or they’ll come to your house ... that’s how the media was tackled and engaged ... and that’s putting it very politely.

"So we are into that phase as well where in order to defend the wrong thing, we have to hire guns and the guns might not necessarily be the physical gun but the word of mouth which is loosely applied and freely applied, you even have a free channel for that purpose as well."

An AmaBhungane discussion was disrupted on Thursday when members of Black First Land First (BLF) started shouting at event organisers when their leader Andile Mngxitama was allegedly punched. During a panel discussion, Madonsela explained the "lonely journey" whistleblowers walk in South Africa.

Also read: BLF opens case following amaBhungane disruption

"They are going to strangle you financially; they are going to strangle you socially," she said.

Madonsela shared various examples of public protector cases where whistleblowers would get charged once disclosing information or where evidence was destroyed following the emergence of the disclosure of information.

The office of the public protector found cases where evidence was still sealed while the National Prosecuting Authority said there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute, Madonsela said.

At the end of his address, Gordhan thanked former Social Development Director General Zane Dangor and former SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Thokozani Magwaza who stood with integrity.

He also thanked Ivan Pillay and his colleagues at the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

"[They] were chased out because they were standing in the way of things that I think are soon going to emerge; wrong things that are happening at that institution," he said.

Gordhan called on civil society to educate South Africans on the dangers of a state run reserve bank.

"There’s a new campaign going on to undermine the South African Reserve Bank and this is the one where we have to tell our citizens what price are we going to pay, even if we disagree with monetary policy, don’t undermine the institution. Have a constructive debate on monetary policy," Gordhan said.

"Debate it in a way where we don’t destroy institutions, but come up with better answers that will serve all of the citizens of South Africa."

Read more on:    pravin gordhan  |  thuli ­madonsela  |  johannesburg

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