Bloody foolish to pursue Pravin Gordhan – Max Sisulu
This is the terse response from ANC national executive committee member and former parliamentary speaker Max Sisulu regarding the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to charge Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
“Pravin is a very good minister of finance. He is one of the best we have had. To threaten to arrest him at this time, when the economy is in trouble, is bloody foolish. The minister is driving the economy in the right direction, he is doing a good job.
“Why threaten to arrest somebody who is doing a good job? Pravin has my support. I have faith in him.”
Noting that President Jacob Zuma had praised Gordhan in a statement late yesterday, the ANC stalwart said in a telephone interview that Zuma needed to do more, he had a duty as head of state to take up the matter.
He did not buy Zuma’s earlier argument that he could not get involved.
“Not supporting a good minister is worse than interference. Pravin is doing a good job, not for himself, but for the country. This is recognised internationally, he has a good track record. Why destabilise the country even further,” he said.
When asked about the nature of the charges against Gordhan, Sisulu said: “I don’t know what the charges are … I don’t think anybody knows what the charges are.”
Speaking generally, Sisulu said he was encouraged to hear comments by ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu this week that the ANC caucus had emerged from a weekend lekgotla with a renewed commitment to beef up the oversight role of MPs.
Parliament was an institution that promoted and protected democracy, he said, and the ANC as the majority party played a vital role.
“The ANC has been speaking out of late, which is a very good thing. The chief whip made a lot of sense. It is not as though South Africans are short of ideas about how to protect and promote democracy.
“We know what needs to be done and also how it should be done. Clearly there is a beginning of a movement about how to protect democracy.”
After the Constitutional Court ruling about Nkandla earlier this year, Sisulu broke a two-year silence over the saga.
He told City Press that Parliament’s credibility had taken a knock and it needed to put its house in order.
Among its findings, the Constitutional court said that the National Assembly had acted inconsistently with the constitution by absolving the president from complying with the remedial action taken by the public protector.
This week, Mthembu admitted that the ANC caucus had made mistakes and vowed that ANC MPs would not get on the wrong side of the law again.
President Jacob Zuma had a duty to act against the “irresponsibility” of the NPA, said outspoken ANC stalwart Ben Turok.
In fact, he should have acted long ago.
“The charges are the end of a long process. Why has the presidency not intervened all this time. We all knew how dangerous the allegations are in terms of the economic climate and dangers of being downgraded to junk,” he said.
Turok, a former member of Parliament, told City Press on Wednesday that no organ of state could operate completely on their own.
“None of us would want interference on a day to day basis. That would be authoritarian and unacceptable. But when a critical issue – like a ratings downgrade – is at stake, then the president has a responsibility to intervene.
“All state entities have operational independence, but not what we call goal independence. They cannot make decisions irrespective of the consequences for the country.
“No agency is completely independent, as if a separate country.”
He said the presidency should have enquired right at the start on what basis charges were being pursued against the finance minister. “No agency is free to act irresponsibly.”
The fact that the president had not intervened, “leads to a suspicion that he is in favour of it”.
“The hounding of Pravin Gordhan on frivolous charges is a political matter, not for the courts,” said Turok, who said he was “outraged” when he heard that the National Prosecuting Authority had charged Gordhan.
“I was shocked at the irresponsibility of the NPA. You are playing with the future of this country.”
Gordhan is due to present his medium term budget policy statement in Parliament on October 26. He has been summonsed to appear in court on November 2 facing fraud charges in relation to former South African Revenue Service deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement.