After weeks of anticipation, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan appeared before the commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday morning.
As the minister of public enterprises testified, a growing number of EFF and Black First Land First supporters gathered outside the commission’s offices in Parktown, where they called for his resignation as public enterprises minister.
On Sunday, EFF leader Julius Malema said that Gordhan’s appointment as finance minister by then president Jacob Zuma in 2009 was a result of his relationship with the Guptas.
Gordhan’s 69-page testimony was leaked to the media last week. Chair of the commission, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo slammed the leak and called on the public to divulge any information surrounding the leak.
The EFF has called on the Public Protector’s office to probe Gordhan on his meetings with the Guptas in the past, saying that he was in violation of the executive ethics code. In a response to a parliamentary question, Gordhan said that he had not met any of the Gupta brothers except at public events.
In the leaked affidavit to the commission, Gordhan states that he was first introduced to a Gupta family member by Zuma.
Last week, Gordhan was subpoenaed to appear before Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in relation to an investigation into the approval of an early retirement package awarded to former South African Revenue Service deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay in 2010.
Before proceedings began, Advocate Dali Mpofu appeared on behalf of former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, who said that they would be applying to cross-examine Gordhan.
“I’m instructed by Mabuza attorneys. We would like to exercise our rights to apply for cross-examination,” he said.
Mpofu said that they would be lodging the application, which would be served within 14 days.
Gordhan, whose testimony was initially postponed, began by outlining his political history, and said that he was offered the job of Transnet chief executive by Jacob Zuma in early 2009.
“In early 2009, chairperson, I was in fact interviewed for the job of CEO of Transnet, interestingly, and was even offered the job. I had accepted the job, but the ANC had requested that I hang on, and after the elections in 2009, I was asked by the president to serve as the minister of finance,” he said.
Probed by Zondo as to why the ANC wanted Gordhan to hold back from accepting the Transnet offer, Gordhan said that he was told to wait until after the elections.
On December 13 2015, Gordhan said, he was offered the role of minister of finance by Zuma at the president’s official residence, Mahlamba Ndlopfu.
“At the meeting he asked that I take the portfolio of minister of finance again, I was reluctant to do so. I actually suggested two other names of people who would be very appropriate for that position, given their experience. One was (Mcebisi) Jonas and the second was Jabu Moleketi, who was previously deputy minister of finance,” he said.
Gordhan said that this was after the turmoil of the financial markets following the axing of then minister of finance Nhlanhla Nene, when Zuma had instituted a Cabinet reshuffle.
Gordhan referred to the “politics of distraction” during his testimony. He explained that, through the use of fake news campaigns such as those executed by PR firm Bell Pottinger, “decoys” were created during the state capture saga.
He also said that the issue of state capture constituted four objects.
“The first object is to control some elements of the political authority. The second is to use that political authority to control key institutions. The third is to ensure that nobody will properly investigate that malfeasance. And the fourth is there is no proper investigation, or even if there is, then no effective prosecution takes place,” he explained.
Gordhan said that he was often struck by a question that was posed to him by the public.
“Why is it that no real big figure finds themselves in orange uniform yet? In other words, why aren’t they being prosecuted effectively?” he said.
Gordhan also said that what he would provide in his testimony was only a piece of the jigsaw puzzle into state capture.
“This is just one contribution to a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw puzzle will eventually give you the state capture as we know it. I’m not claiming that I have full knowledge of everything, but within my experience and the experience of colleagues that I have worked with, here is a piece of that puzzle,” he said.
Gordhan referred to the Betrayal of the Promise Report, which was prepared by the Public Affairs Research Institute. It detailed how state-owned enterprises had been “captured” over the past decade.
“What I would suggest is this is a hypothesis you can work with when the pieces of the puzzle are put together. It provides the framework to you and indeed the public as to ‘what is this picture called state capture?’” he said.
Gordhan said a conceptual framework was a lot more sinister than individual acts of corruption.
“The picture evolves as the pieces fit into the right place,” he said.
Gordhan said that in the analysis of events related to state capture, there was a “build-up of evidence which says there’s something a lot more sinister than just individual acts of corruption that is actually going on. That then gives rise to the notion that once enough dots appear, one might have the opportunity to connect the dots and see the bigger picture”. – City Press