Cape Town – While Save SA realises it is the prerogative of President Jacob Zuma, firing Pravin Gordhan as finance minister would be foolhardy, it warned on Monday.
“There is nothing anyone can do if Gordhan is fired as it is part of the president’s prerogative,” Save SA steering committee member Lawson Naidoo told Fin24.
“However, one would hope he understands that he has a minister of finance that has the trust of the global investment community,” he said. “It would be foolhardy to make changes at this level at this time.”
Naidoo is also the executive director of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac).
“We need to be cognisant that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan have returned from a successful World Economic Forum, where they conveyed a message of South Africa’s policy direction as a country amenable to international investment and economic growth.
“The president should realise South Africa needs economic growth to tackle challenges of unemployment and inequality and should not allow short-term political gains to compromise long-term objectives.”
He was referring to Zuma and his political faction, who believe “white monopoly capital” is standing in the way of “radical economic transformation”, a populist tone that seeks to undermine the work of Ramaphosa and Gordhan in the run-up to the ANC’s elective conference.
“If this is Zuma’s policy, why hasn’t he implemented it in all the years he has been president?” asked Naidoo. “Why is it an imperative now, when it could be detrimental to South Africa?”
The narrative was controversially boosted on Twitter over the weekend with the use of fake twitter bots and adverts that boosted the idea that Gordhan is trying to destroy the Guptas at the request of white business leaders.
“Those who are in the Gupta camp are behind mischief-making to encourage the president to act in a rash manner,” said Naidoo. “We need to expose what it is and to ensure the president does not get sucked into that.”
While many South Africans see Gordhan as the pinnacle of economic stability, Naidoo warned that focusing on Gordhan is not healthy.
“Save SA has supported National Treasury,” he said. “It is not just about Pravin Gordhan. He made it clear that what was needed to be protected was the whole team of Treasury.”
Naidoo said what needs protecting are the representatives of the broad delegation of business, labour and government leaders who are working together to create inclusive economic growth in the country.
“We look at these issues from a broader perspective from the kind of ethical leadership that SA needs to allow us to be governed the way the constitution envisaged,” he said.
Three issues Save SA will focus on
Save SA and Casac has a busy schedule lined up in the next few weeks, Naidoo said.
First up is a court chamber meeting this week between the parties – including Casac - in Zuma’s court bid to block former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture recommendation that an inquiry be launched into the Guptas.
“The Office of the President has been very slow with this case,” he said. “It needs to be expedited.”
“We have to ask the state attorney to serve papers on us because the court case must happen sooner rather than later,” he said. “We need to uncover the extent of state capture in South Africa.”
The meeting this week will help determine time frames when documents need to be filed and when the case will be heard, said Naidoo.
The second issue Save SA will focus on this year is the nuclear procurement deal. “Save SA will work with Climate for Energy Justice,” he said. “We will look at the issue around procurement of nuclear energy, but also how it impacts the poor.”
They will also monitor the situation regarding environmental body Safcei and Earthlife SA’s court case against the Department of Energy and Eskom over the nuclear agreement with Russia, as well as Eskom’s request for information for the procurement of 9.6 GW of nuclear power stations.
It will also investigate any positioning with uranium to see if “there is no undue benefit to parties linked to Zuma and his supporters”.
The third issue on Save SA’s agenda is Zuma’s upcoming State of the Nation Address.
“We are organising our own State of the Nation on February 8 for young South Africans to convey a message to the president,” he said.
“We want to give an opportunity to ordinary people to say what they believe needs to be done,” said Naidoo. “We want to set an agenda from the perspective of the needs of the young and ordinary people.
“The focus on the captured elite is beginning to shift and people are realising what impact theft has on ordinary people.”