Former Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan. File picture: GCIS

Pietermaritzburg - South Africa's future lies in the hands of active citizens who must stand up and make sure that state coffers are not looted by individuals with personal motives, says former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Speaking at the Gandhi Lecture in Mountain Rise, Pietermaritzburg on Friday night, he decried alleged looting of state funds by the politically connected.

“It is up to all of us to say South Africa is not for sale, and that regardless of how heavy the brown envelope is we will not allow our country to be taken over,” Gordhan said to applause and cheers from the audience. 

There was drama, though, when in the middle of his speech a group of men walked to the front and waved placards criticising Gordhan, some of them calling him a "stooge of white monopoly capital".

President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward was part of the group and shouted at Gordhan, accusing him of voting with the opposition during the recent debate in the National Assembly on a vote of no confidence in Zuma. “You are a sellout, you voted with the opposition, we will deal with you,” Edward Zuma yelled.

Not to be deterred, Gordhan challenged the audience to remain resolute in pursuit of social justice and not allow promises of money to derail them. He also called on the protesting group to tell their bosses that South Africa would not be sold to individuals. He praised his former deputy Mcebisi Jonas for refusing to be bribed into selling his country to the wealthy, politically connected Gupta family. “This is a man who said no when millions of rand were offered to him and we must all be as resolute," said Gordhan.

The former minister told the audience there was a need to follow in the footsteps of former president Nelson Mandela and Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in equality. 

“Although we have progressed as a country over the years there are a few dynamics that contrasts the country’s progress." While there were problems in South Africa, there was an opportunity to make the country better if everyone, both within and outside the ANC, worked towards achieving equality, he said.
There was a heavy police presence at the event amid rumours that members of the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association intended to disrupt the proceedings.