Gordhan: I serve at the pleasure of Zuma

Cape Town - Ministers serve at the pleasure of the president and only President Jacob Zuma can decide if he will remain the minister of finance or not, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said during an interview at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town on Thursday.  

"The president might decide yes or no and apply his own discretion. However, if I am required to deliver the budget in February, I am willing to do that," Gordhan responded to a question by political analyst Justice Malala.

Asked about investigations at state-owned enterprises, Gordhan said if someone at a state-owned enterprise or government department becomes uncomfortable with Treasury following the letter of the law, then that is their problem, because if they feel discomfort then they owe the public an explanation.

This was the view expressed by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan during an interview with political analyst Justice Malala at the Open Book Festival in Cape Town on Thursday.

As long as state-owned enterprises and government departments follow the rules of the game, there will be no friction, said Gordhan. In his view, these rules of the game are that the public sector has to take care of public money by spending it efficiently and in the public interest.  

"South Africa's constitution clearly states that any procurement process must be fair and offer value for money. Public resources must, therefore, be spent for the right purpose," said Gordhan.

"Treasury's job is to make sure we work in the spirit and the letter of the constitution and implement the relevant acts."

READ: Rand rallies after Zuma denies war with Gordhan

Malala asked Gordhan about National Treasury's investigation into Eskom coal contracts with Tegeta. The Gupta family owns the majority of Tegeta.

In August Treasury accused Eskom executives of blocking the probe, while Eskom claimed it was cooperating in the investigations. In the end Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown had to ask Eskom to immediately release a report on the Tegeta deal to Treasury.

"The question should be what one has to hide. Treasury has to see if a deal brought value for money and how public money is spent. We act in terms of the law and if someone has something to hide, don’t point a finger at Treasury. Comply with the law and all of us can get along as happy friends," said Gordhan.

Malala wanted to know from Gordhan "what is going on with this one family?"

"Like I said in Parliament, it is strange that this set of characters seem to have such a unique presence in our society. There are lots of media allegations. What we do need in SA is to recognise that economic systems produce a rent seeking phenomenon in some sort of other," explained Gordhan.

"Clearly, in our society you get hardworking, honest people and then you have people who benefit unfairly. Some people in Parliament want public funds to benefit 55 million people not just 5 million."

Gordhan said that at the recent G20 meeting one of the concerns raised was about the increasing global distrust between citizens and the elite.

"Citizens in many parts of the world are asking who benefits from economic growth. Inequality is increasing and citizens around the world understand they are losers in this process. This has led to a strong feeling against global trade, for instance," said Gordhan.

"Some are saying it is a process of de-globalisation, which leads to protectionism and barriers. We have to see it in a broader context: We need to ensure that public oriented bodies serve all the people in SA. This can be done through the constitution and the law."

READ: Eskom gives in to Treasury on coal report

WATCH: You have people who are unfairly benefitting:

Hawks

Malala then asked Gordhan if he is above the law? This was in relation to the Hawks' investigation into the so-called Sars Wars and relating to the time when Gordhan was the commissioner of the SA Revenue Service and an undercover investigation unit was established.

"No, I am not above the law," Gordhan said. "You can arrest me now if you want, but not if you have malicious intent."

Gordhan explained that he is not required to go and see the Hawks as all their questions have been asked and answered.

"Each time we tell them they must contact us if they require more information. They are most welcome to ask. No one should be above the law. The real issue is that [Sars commissioner] Tom Moyane laid a complaint with the Hawks and since then a newpaper has carried an 18-month campaign against certain people. It later had to apologise as it did not have proof," said Gordhan.

"So what is the problem? Who is accused of what? There might be people stealing hundreds of millions each day and they [the Hawks] have no concern. What motivates them? We will cooperate with whatever legal obligation we have and do it in terms of the law."

ALSO READ: Gordhan’s Hawks response halts rand plunge

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