EFF insists firing Pravin Gordhan will result in 'peaceful' SONA
Parliament - The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have vowed to stage a rerun of their disruption of openings of parliament past when president Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his fourth state of the nation address on Thursday.
The EFF famously caused havoc with several of former president Jacob Zuma's state of the nation addresses, heckling him to "pay back the money" spent on refurbishing his private Nkandla home at taxpayers' expense.
The party is now taking aim at Ramaphosa over the state of the economy but making public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan the scapegoat for some of the worst crises the administration faces, and demanding he be fired before Thursday.
In a statement on Sunday, the EFF said: "If the State of the Nation Address is to be peaceful, Ramaphosa must do the honourable thing and fire Pravin Gordhan. This is now long overdue, accountability means there must be political consequences to incompetence."
The far-left party, the second biggest in opposition, accused Gordhan of worsening the Eskom crisis, pushing parastatals into private hands and causing job losses in the process, as well as overseeing a campaign against black executives at state-owned enterprises.
"Gordhan must go before he runs down all the assets of the state and the people of South Africa. Most painfully, under his watch black executives in key state institutions are being vilified, projected as incompetent and corrupt, then replaced with racial minorities; which is the greatest statement of no confidence in African leadership.
"We will therefore march to the public enterprises offices in Pretoria to demand Pravin Gordhan to resign," the EFF leadership said.
It added that Gordhan was "incompetent and seemingly untouchable".
Gordhan has in the past responded to the EFF's vitriol by accusing the party, in court papers, of being part of the "fight back campaign" against political renewal and accusing Mkhwebane to allow her office to be "weaponised" in their political crusade.
The minister is challenging adverse findings against him by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, which were made in response to a complaint filed by the EFF.
Pending the review, Gordhan sought an interim high court interdict suspending the implementation of the remedial action she instructed Ramaphosa to take against his minister and close political ally.
Mkhwebane found, inter alia, that Gordhan was guilty of maladministration for his part in the establishment of a secret intelligence gathering unit within the South African Revenue Service (SARS) in 2007.
In terms of Mkhwebane’s report, this disciplinary action could require that Ramaphosa remove Gordhan from his cabinet.
On Friday, the tide turned further on that matter when the National Prosecuting Authority dropped charges of corruption and illegal interception of communication against three key former SARS officials - Ivan Pillay, Andries Janse van Rensburg and Johann van Loggerenberg - relating to their role in the so-called rogue spy unit in the revenue service.
The rogue unit narrative has long been abandoned by most, yet in the docket against the three men formed part of the basis for Mkhwebane's findings.
The EFF is objecting to the decision by National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi, and demanding that the charges be sent to court for a "sober" judge to make an independent determination.
In the meanwhile, the party has also signalled that it would not stand with other political parties in supporting speaker Thandi Modise as she opposes Mkhwebane's high court bid to halt a parliamentary process to remove her from office. Mkhwebane filed papers last week, and her application for an urgent interdict is expected to be heard next week.
It is with these long-standing political battles coming to a head that Ramaphosa will deliver his address on Thursday. Since taking office in February 2018, he has contained threats by the EFF to disrupt previous speeches, and parliament has for its part signalled that it is not losing sleep over the EFF's latest statements.