ANC gives Gordhan its full backing

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg)
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg)

Johannesburg - ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe "commended" Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for his work on Friday, on the same day that a newspaper reported he threatened to resign shortly before delivering his Budget Speech.

"The ANC commends (the) minister of finance and his team for the hard work and the energy that they invested thus far. We further reiterate our full confidence in the minister and his team for the work they continue to do," Mantashe said in a statement.

The ruling party was "extremely concerned" about reports that the Hawks sent questions to Gordhan four days before his Budget Speech about his knowledge of a rogue unit at the SA Revenue Services.

"The timing of these questions indicates clearly that there was intention to distract the minister during this important time. It is even more disconcerting that these questions were leaked to the media. In our view, this is a well-calculated destabilisation plan with all the elements of disinformation, falsehoods and exaggerated facts," said Mantashe.

READ: Gordhan threatened to quit as Sars wars escalate

Business Day newspaper reported on Friday that Gordhan threatened to resign last weekend after he told President Jacob Zuma that he could no longer work with South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane, who has purged people associated with Gordhan.

Mantashe said it was "unfortunate" that there were initiatives "intended to undermine his work, reverse the gains our economy has made and have a destabilising effect in the long term".

"It is the view of the ANC that the complex and difficult work that has been done by the president and minister since December to date, including during the Budget Speech, has restored the confidence of our people in the economy and brought about stability.

"... In the event that the Hawks have anything to investigate related to the minister and Sars, it would be in the best interest of our country if they did so professionally, using the correct channel and procedures and not seek to conduct a trial through the media."

Gordhan was appointed finance minister last year after four days of political chaos when Zuma replaced the respected Nhlanhla Nene with the little-known Des van Rooyen, now cooperative governance minister, as finance minister, but made an about-turn after huge pressure from external and internal forces within the ruling party.

Since then, insiders said Gordhan was given a mandate by top leaders in the ANC to do whatever needs to be done to prevent South Africa from reaching junk status.

But on Monday this week, in an apparent swipe against Gordhan, Zuma told reporters that Van Rooyen was the most qualified finance minister he had ever appointed, sparking speculation of tension between the president and Gordhan, who seems to have the backing of other key ANC figures.

READ: Van Rooyen was highly qualified for finance job, says Zuma

Opposition party Congress of the People described the latest development as a "proxy war".

"Mr Zuma, clearly, is still hell bent on getting Des van Rooyen, in his estimation the most highly qualified man to be minister of finance, to head the finance ministry. He needs him there to serve his own interest and that of his friends in SAA and elsewhere. The nation must never allow that. We are almost bankrupt. Des van Rooyen will take us over the edge," Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said in a statement.

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