The Guptas couldn’t buy me and I don’t bow to bullies, says Pravin
Minister says there was no meeting with the family as he hits back at fresh allegations by the EFF
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan says he could walk out of cabinet any time and look for a job elsewhere since politics is a calling and not a career for him.
“I’m not a commodity for sale, and I think the Guptas learnt that too,” Gordhan told the Zondo state capture commission.
Gordhan used his second day of testimony to lash back against a heightened attack on him from the Economic Freedom Fighters, challenging its leaders to make their allegations against him under oath to the commission where they could be subjected to cross-examination.
“I don’t make deals for jobs ... I don't make deals with smugglers or taxpayers or submit to intimidation or bullying ... I’m not accountable to bullies,” he said.
He also responded to criticism that he should resign because he had not previously declared his interactions with members of the Gupta family.
“There was no meeting with the Guptas. I am quite emphatic that I am not for sale,” Gordhan said.
He said his former adviser and now treasury director-general Dondo Mogojane reminded him recently that Ajay Gupta was present at a meeting he had with Indian businessman Anil Ambani in 2010. Gordhan said he would write to the speaker of parliament to point this out as he had previously responded to a parliamentary question from the DA saying he had not had any meetings with the Guptas.
“I would not lie to parliament ... If I wanted to lie, Mr Chair, I could have left this meeting out [of his testimony] and you wouldn’t have been any wiser,” Gordhan said.
He confirmed being introduced to one of the Gupta brothers by former president Jacob Zuma at the presidential residence Mahlamba Ndlopfu, and seeing members of the family at a cricket match, as well as at The New Age business breakfasts he was required to attend.
“I refused to schedule a meeting with the Gupta family, whether at their residence or anywhere else,” Gordhan said. He said the fact that he declined their requests for meetings, refused to attend their Sun City wedding, cancelled a post-budget business briefing hosted by The New Age, and rebuffed attempts to get him to intervene to reopen their bank accounts, indicated his attitude towards the family.
Gordhan also told Justice Raymond Zondo how he had been repeatedly harassed, including through orchestrated social-media and fake-news campaigns, to force him to resign while he was finance minister.
He said the Hawks were used to investigate him in 2016 because there was a realisation that his reappointment as finance minister was a mistake.
Because of economic turmoil stemming from the firing of Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, “other means needed to be found to force me to resign – pretty much the bullying and harassment that you see now”, Gordhan told Zondo. Gordhan said he believed former Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza was central to the state capture project and the elite crimefighting unit was abused for political objectives through malicious law enforcement.
He said when he received 27 questions from Ntlemeza on the eve of the 2016 budget speech he went to Zuma to object to the apartheid security branch-style harassment and to ask whether “political activists like me should prepare to be eliminated in the democratic era”.
Gordhan said the concerted efforts to “chase me out of office” were happening again.
He said a “fake news onslaught” and personal attacks were continuing, including allegations that he and members of his family had secret shares in companies. He said all his interests had been disclosed to parliament.
He said an elderly relative had told him: “The tongue has no bone. It is one of the most flexible instruments.” He said this allowed people to make unsubstantiated allegations against him.
Addressing his supporters outside the commission venue, EFF leader Julius Malema said they would campaign for Gordhan’s removal because he is in control of all state-owned enterprises and “hates Africans”.
He lashed out at Gordhan, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma, saying they were all “in the same corrupt WhatsApp group”.
He also accused Gordhan of “meeting judges secretly”.
“We will go to the commission when we want to,” Malema said in response to demands that the party submit its allegations to the inquiry.
He also warned that the fight against Gordhan and the ANC could get “dirty”.
“There can be loss of life. I am not scared of that,” Malema said.
He accused Zondo of using a “luxurious building”, which is also the home of Tiso Blackstar, for his “Mickey Mouse” commission.
“How does Judge Zondo sleep at night knowing that he is stealing money from the poor?” Malema asked.