President Cyril Ramaphosa at the National Assembly on Thursday to reply to the debate on the Presidency's budget vote. Picture: GCIS

Durban - President Cyril Ramaphosa came to the defence of under-fire Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan in parliament on Thursday saying he was a man of "integrity" and should be allowed to defend himself in a court of law.

Addressing the National Assembly on Thursday during the Presidency Vote debate, Ramaphosa lashed EFF leader, Julius Malema for what he called an extraordinary attack on Gordhan.

"It is a fundamental tenet of our democratic constitutional order that no person – no matter what position they hold – is above the law," Ramaphosa said.

"No person is above scrutiny. Every person must answer for their actions. That includes the President, that includes Honourable Gordhan and that includes even Honourable Malema. By the same measure, every person is equal before the law and must have recourse to the law. Every person must be able to enforce their rights, whether that means approaching the courts or any other competent authority," he said.

Gordhan has in recent weeks faced the wrath of the EFF whose members last Thursday surrounded him as he attempted to deliver his departmental budget speech in parliament.

They did not want him to deliver the speech following the adverse findings of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane who found that the establishment of a "rogue unit" at Sars was approved by Gordhan, in violation of the constitution. I

In her remedial action, Mkhwebane instructed President Cyril Ramaphosa to take "disciplinary action" against Gordhan.

Gordhan lodged an urgent application to suspend and interdict the enforcement of the remedial orders by the public protector, and also to review her report.

The EFF has indicated that it would instruct its said on Thursday it had instructed its lawyers to join in the defence of the public protector in the court application for an urgent interdict lodged by Gordhan.

Ramaphosa said that he was in no position to express a view on the findings that the Public Protector has made against Gordhan as the matter was now before the courts."

"But I can express a view on the character of Minister Gordhan and the contribution he has made to the liberation of our country," he said.

"I have appointed him to a critical and demanding position in Cabinet because I know him to be a person of commitment and integrity.
He has endured and withstood extreme pressure – both under apartheid and in the democratic era. He has been under pressure to abandon principle and to forsake his responsibility to this nation. If Minister Gordhan – or any member of this administration – has anything to answer for, they must be held to account, without exception. They must be held before any court and they must go and answer. But allow that determination to be made by the appropriate judicial institution after due process. Let the law take its course. That is what our Constitution demands," Ramphosa said.

The president reiterated his comments that he was willing to testify at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

He called on South Africans to support the Zondo Commission and the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation.

" The work of these commissions is absolutely necessary if we are to decisively end state capture and effectively fight corruption... It is for that reason that I have stated publicly on several occasions ... that I am available and ready to testify before the Commission. That I am able and willing to do and it is an affirmation I reiterate today," he said.

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