Cigarettes, corruption and racism: Why the EFF hates Gordhan, according to Jackson Mthembu

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. (File)
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu. (File)

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu on Wednesday said the Economic Freedom Fighters' (EFF) focus on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was based on a "deep-seated hatred" of Indians and because of Gordhan's attempts to clean out corruption in SOEs.

"Mr President, you have never shied away from constructive criticism and robust debate which is a hallmark of our democracy, however, we want to differentiate between robust and constructive criticism, as opposed to disrespect, rudeness and uncouth behaviour as shown by others in this House," Mthembu said in the National Assembly.

He was participating in a debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's budget vote speech on Wednesday.

"As shown during last week's budget speech by Minister Pravin Gordhan, particularly by the EFF, why do the EFF pursue Gordhan so much? Let's just try and answer this question. Why this anarchic pursuit of this stalwart of the liberation movement? We know that one reason that we want to put is that there is a deep-seated hatred for Indian compatriots amongst these," he said as he pointed a finger at the EFF benches. 

EFF MP Nazier Paulsen then shouted "that's racist", to which Mthembu responded, "of course you are racist, you are".

'Corrupt toes of EFF cronies'

Mthembu was referring to comments made by EFF leader Julius Malema in June 2018, where he characterised the majority of Indian South Africans as "racist".

Speaking at a youth rally in the North West, Malema said the Indian population's disdain for black people was evident in their voting patterns and the low marriage rate between Indians and Africans, City Press reported. He also said, during the EFF's fourth-year birthday celebrations in 2017, that Indian people were "worse than Afrikaners", and justified it by saying it was "not an anti-Indian statement, it's the truth".

Mthembu charged: "Secondly, president, you sent honourable Minister Pravin to go and clean out our state-owned entities. I can assure you that, in his attempts to clean up the state-owned entities, he stepped on some corrupt toes of EFF cronies.

"The third one is that, indeed they are trying very hard to try and deviate from their friends who are dealing in illicit cigarettes, who fund them regularly. And it is these friends who are being pursued by our tax collecting agencies. Now Pravin becomes a scapegoat."

'Do not be deterred by these howlers'

The "friends" referred to by Mthembu probably includes self-confessed tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti. In October 2018, the EFF confirmed to Radio 702 that it had received R200 000 from Mazzotti, ahead of the party registering in the 2014 general elections.

Mazzotti has most recently been linked to alleged unlawful activity related to mining projects in a community in Limpopo.

READ: Malema buddy's mine leaves community reeling

"Honorable president, do not be deterred by these howlers, continue to do what the people of South Africa have entrusted you to do," Mthembu added.

In his response to Ramaphosa's budget vote address, Malema said - in reference to the so-called SARS "rogue unit" - that "some of the people who worked for this unit are coming out into the public to speak of its illegal activities".

"The rogue unit and its political principals are primarily at the helm of a media cabal and faction whose role is to lynch anyone who exposes or speaks against the formation of the unit and its illegal activities," said Malema.

Malema, who is no stranger to difficulties with the taxman, added: "I became a victim of this unit. I went to them in 2010. I met Oupa Magashule, I met Ivan Pillay, I met Johan van Loggerenberg. I gave them the document which contained all of this information. I left and all my problems started."

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