Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan faced intimidation and victimisation for refusing to be a party to state capture, the judicial inquiry into state capture headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo heard on Monday.
Gordhan – who made a comeback to Cabinet earlier this year under President Cyril Ramaphosa after being axed by former president Jacob Zuma – gave his first day of evidence at the inquiry.
He spoke of preferred appointments at government entities, mysterious foreign deals at local parastatals, and Zuma's determination to procure nuclear power, even at a scale South Africa could not afford.
Below is a roundup of the key points emerging from Gordhan's testimony.
While Gordhan said he could not speculate in detail on the circumstances around Nhlanhla Nene’s initial removal as finance minister, he did tell the inquiry that Nene refused to sign a deal for nuclear procurement.
Denel, VR Laser and Denel Asia
Gordhan told the inquiry about difficulties undoing an arrangement in which Denel became a 50% holder in a Hong Kong company alongside a partner the South African government had a hard time finding – Gupta associate Salim Essa.
At the time this Hong Kong-based joint enterprise was established, Zuma's legal representative at the commission, Daniel Mantsha, was calling the shots at Denel as the arms company's chairperson.
Gordhan characterised his relationship with Mantsha as hostile, saying he was subjected to great verbal confrontation from Zuma's legal representatives over key decisions at Denel.
Fired? News to me
Gordhan also told Zondo that he found out Zuma had removed him as finance minister with the rest of the country – on the news.
"It was not until March of the following year that I learned that I was relieved of my duties as minister just after midnight. I was not extended the courtesy of being told that I was relieved of my duties," said Gordhan.
Please plug the leaks
Early in his testimony, Gordhan raised the leaking of his draft statement and the subsequent publication in the media.
"The draft statement that I and my legal team had interactions on only was seen by Mr Pretorius. Yet there are already tweets comparing the first and final draft. I would like the commission to consider this, as it is quite fascinating that some seem to have access to these," Gordhan said.
Zondo agreed, saying, "We will accept that as a statement on record. The commission continues to investigate the leaks."
'Gordhan must fall'
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were present outside the venue in Johannesburg. EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu and national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi addressed crowds of supporters demanding Gordhan’s resignation from Cabinet.
Black First Land First (BLF) also held demonstrations outside of the commission’s venue. Both gatherings rallied in opposition to "white monopoly capital" and what they see as the gradual privatisation of state-owned companies, including Eskom.
Zuma set on nuclear
Gordhan said Zuma was determined to see nuclear energy procured on a large scale, but said he tried to stick to a commitment to investigate whether nuclear could be procured in an affordable and sustainable manner.
"Nuclear was considered as part of the energy mix of South Africa. The 9.6GW is consistent with the so-called Russian nuclear deal and what it would have amounted to," said Gordhan.
Gordhan told Zondo that when there was a proposition for nuclear procurement, he would, through existing legislation, allow for a process that could accommodate procurement for a project of this scale.
No intention to overstep
Gordhan said Zuma ignored him when he advised the then-president to test his preferred candidate against others when choosing the next SARS commissioner. He never meant to overstep, he explained.
"I accept the limitation of my place in government.
"Having the vantage point of looking at all the pieces of the puzzle, I can say we can all supply you with pieces and allow you to come to the conclusion that you need to," said Gordhan.
How long will investors stick around?
Gordhan recalled a time when National Treasury experienced great difficulty instilling a sense of confidence among investors amid contentious decisions Zuma made, as well as a lack of clarity on nuclear procurement, among other things.
Gordhan is expected to continue giving evidence on Tuesday.
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