Minister Pravin Gordhan has told the state capture inquiry he believes that the push-back by the perpetrators of state capture was real. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

Cape Town - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has told the Zondo inquiry into state capture he believes that the push-back by the perpetrators of state capture was real and he was personally feeling it in the form of an investigation by the Public Protector along the same lines as the trumped-up political charges brought against him in 2016.

Gordhan, who was fired by Zuma as finance minister last year, said he was subpoenaed on October 1 by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to appear before her on a complaint linked to the approval of early retirement for former senior South African Revenue Service executive Ivan Pillay. 

"The complaint was lodged on 18 November 2016 by Mr Lebogang Hoveka, who was then a speechwriter in the presidency," he said in a written statement to the inquiry.

Gordhan appeared to cite the investigation by Mkhwebane as an example of what he termed the ongoing abuse of the state's powers by people who wanted to undo the work done by the Ramaphosa administration to reverse the harm done to the country by the looting of resources to benefit "a small group of politically-connected individuals".

"The misuse and abuse of public powers for suspicious objectives, including intimidation and harassment, also continues," he said.

"I believe that the fight-back is aimed at countering the work done this year by public servants and political office bearers to 'recapture' the state and deliver on its constitutional mandate," he said, according to a leaked copy of his testimony before the commission of inquiry into the defining scandal of the Zuma years."

Gordhan also recounted of how in March 2017 then African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe told him that, though the contents of a bogus intelligence report implicating him was rejected by the ruling party's top six officials, Zuma stated that his relationship with him had broken down.

Mantashe added, Gordhan said, that he would prefer him to resign as finance minister rather than fire him.

Gordhan countered that he intended to continue in his job.

He was dismissed by Zuma in a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle at the end of that month. Since his appointment by Cyril Ramaphosa, Gordhan has been on a stated mission to rid state-owned enterprises of corrupt influence and recover money lost in irregular deals with the business empire of the Gupta family at the centre of the state capture scandal.

The minister told the commission that the onslaught from state capture came from those "at the highest levels of the executive". He said his awareness of the phenomenon came about gradually and events that appeared benign at the time, including Cabinet reshuffles and changes to the boards of parastatals acquired greater significance with hindsight as they resulted in the "plunder of resources" from these companies.

Gordhan said he remarked that Zuma showed a "profound interest" in ordinary organisational transactional matters subject to due diligence.

"Suffice it to say that at least two of these projects share similarities with respect to their size in monetary value and the level of personal interest showed by former president Zuma in them," he added.

The projects were the procurement of more nuclear power capacity, which Gordhan said Zuma patently wanted to do buy from Russia, and a deal for PetroSA to buy the shareholding of Malaysia's Petronas in Engen for R18.68 billion. 

With regard to the latter, Gordhan said he became suspicious when National Treasury became aware that the true value of the shareholding was some R6 billion less.

"This raised red flags to me as to why there was a possible difference of R6 billion in possible valuations of the Engen stake, and who may benefit from the difference."

He said he hoped that the Zondo commission would be able to further investigate this deal, which fell through after PetroSA failed to fulfill the financing conditions.

African News Agency (ANA)