Business leaders rally behind Gordhan as SA can't afford distractions

Cape Town – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Monday received the public support of more business leaders as the corruption-fighting politician ups the ante against President Jacob Zuma’s friends, the Guptas.

Gordhan is at the centre of what many experts believe is the final showdown between Zuma loyalists and those seeking accountability and transparency about state capture allegations.

READ: Gordhan: Fraud charges are without merit

Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) Professor Nick Binedell spearheaded an advert in Business Day on Monday that gives support to Gordhan from business leaders such as Banking Association of SA MD Cas Coovadia, former Standard Bank CEO Jacko Maree, former Brait CEO Antony Ball and former JSE CEO Russell Loubser.

“South Africa’s democratic transformation cannot afford to have a man of Gordhan’s abilities distracted or sidelined,” the business leaders said. “We know him as a man of immense integrity, leadership ability and commitment.”

Coovadia told Fin24 on Monday that he had agreed to a request by Binedell to offer his support to a petition for South Africans to rally behind the minister.

Binedell, who is currently in Dubai with a group of MBA students, is one of the founders of Gibs, which started in 1998.

The petition has yet to gain momentum, with only 44 supporters signing it by 10:30 on Monday.

Other supporters of the campaign, whose names appear in the advert, include Philip Baum, the CEO of Anglo American SA: Ferrous Metals and Industries, as well as Rudolf Gouws, chief economist at Rand Merchant Bank.

READ: Gordhan says he will do all he can to fight 'frivolous' fraud charges

Fraud charges

Last week, the National Prosecuting Authority summoned Gordhan to appear in court on November 2 on fraud charges, stemming from a retirement package for former South African Revenue Service deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. Many legal experts and political analysts agree with Gordhan that the charges are without merit, and Gordhan said he would challenge them in court.

“I want to say that the charges that were brought against me don’t constitute fraud,” Gordhan said on Friday. “The charges are frivolous and bring into question the legitimacy of the announcements the National Prosecuting Authority has made.”

With the public protector’s report into state capture shelved on Friday, Gordhan then surprised the nation by launching an application in the High Court in Pretoria.

Gordhan wants the court to declare that, as finance minister, he is in no way obligated to help the Guptas in their battle with South Africa's largest banks, which all terminated their banking relationships with the Guptas and their companies earlier this year.

“The context in which this information has been made public does suggest that the gloves are off from Gordhan,” political analyst Daniel Silke told Bloomberg on Saturday. “He is making a concerted effort to take on those who threaten him. It feels as if something is moving towards an end game.”

More from Daniel Silke: SA’s choice: Self-interest or national interest

Support for Gordhan grows

The business leaders join a growing number of political heavyweights such as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

Ramaphosa said on Sunday that he offers his “moral and political support” to Gordhan in view of the legal processes unfolding around him and in the light of preparations to deliver the mini budget on October 26.

“As a member of the National Executive, I lend my support to Minister Gordhan as he faces charges brought against him by the National Prosecuting Authority,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

FULL STORY: Ramaphosa offers 'moral and political support' to Gordhan

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