Durban - President Jacob Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, confronted former finance minister Pravin Gordhan at the third Mahatma Gandhi memorial lecture in Pietermaritzburg on Friday night, again accusing him of “selling the country to (businessman Johann) Rupert”.
Gordhan was delivering the keynote address when Edward heckled him, shouting for 10 minutes during his speech.
Others in Zuma’s entourage of 15 men joined in the heckling which started when Gordhan was halfway through his address.
Wearing a black suit and red tie, Edward sat at the back of the hall with his group. He later stood up and began shouting.
“All you’re saying, you’re lying, Pravin. You are telling people lies. You should tell them you sold the country to the white man in Stellenbosch (Rupert). You sold the country. Tell people you sold the country to Rupert,” Edward said, pointing to the former minister.
Gordhan appeared unperturbed and continued speaking.
The men with Edward held up placards. These included the words: “Gordhan is a #WMC (white monopoly capital) puppet” and “Why did you vote in favour of vote of no confidence?”
Zuma has been under fire for his close relationship with the Gupta family, who have been accused of “capturing” South Africa and securing lucrative contracts through their close relationship with the first family.
Some placards displayed the face of Gordhan in the centre and companies in which he purportedly had shares. Among them were the four major banks, Absa, Nedbank, First National Bank and Standard Bank.
“You are a sell-out. You are lying to these people; you are deceiving them,” continued Edward.
But the 350-plus guests rushed to Gordhan’s defence, clapping while he spoke and drowning out Edward’s rants. Ravi Pillay, MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, was among them.
Police were called. Edward and his group were asked to leave but they agreed to stop making a racket and the event went ahead.
It is understood that places at the event had been sold for R2 000 each and Edward and his group are believed to have bought two tables.
Speaking to the Sunday Tribune after the incident, Gordhan said: “This is not the way you behave in a democracy.”
Gordhan said the intimidation tactics used against him would not shake him.
“This is not going to stop people like us from speaking the truth and from building the ANC into a powerful organisation.”
He lauded the crowd for standing by him.
Gordhan shot down claims that he was a puppet of so-called white monopoly capital, saying this was nonsense.
He said the ANC had to deal with Edward Zuma.
“The disrespectful behaviour will agitate the public even more and it will get them more involved (in fighting) for a proper democracy,” he said.
Earlier this month, Edward was ordered by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal to apologise after he, in an open letter, described Gordhan as a “stooge for white monopoly capital” and former minister of tourism Derek Hanekom as a “white Afrikaner askari”.
Edward subsequently apologised, according to the provincial ANC leadership.But Gordhan disputed this.
“He did not apologise to me but to the ANC. So as far as I’m concerned, there was no apology for highly inflammatory comments.”
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Edward is a member of the ANC’s Msholozi branch in Nkandla, while Gordhan remains on the party’s national executive committee.
Super Zuma, the ANC KZN secretary, said the party would launch its own investigation before taking action.
He questioned why Gordhan had attended an event in KZN and did not inform them as the provincial leadership.
“Both of them are compromising the ANC.”
David Gengan, who chairs the Gandhi committee, hit back at Edward, saying it had been wrong of him to hijack an event aimed at honouring Gandhi, who stood for peace, truth and non-violence.
Some guests had “clandestinely” bought tables using names such as the “Inanda Settlement Heritage”, Gengan said. He said the placards had been hidden when the group entered the hall.
It was not the first time Gordhan had been interrupted while delivering a speech. In April, he was heckled by the ANC Youth League in KZN during struggle activist Ahmed Kathrada’s memorial service in Durban.
Gordhan was sacked by Zuma as finance minister in March with his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas. Gordhan in turn called on Zuma to “step aside”, a move that angered many, including the youth league.
Political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu said the infighting in the ANC was triggering these incidents.
“We are going to see more of this as we get closer to the national conference in December.”
Approached for comment, the Active Citizens Movement leader in Pietermaritzburg, Roshan Jainath, said: “Edward displayed incoherent arrogance and hatred. He demonstrated to citizens the new face of a very divided ANC, one which acts with impunity and hypocrisy.
“His behaviour unmasked an ANC that flexes its muscles and charges people for voting with their conscience but remains silent on behaviour that clearly lacks moral substance.”
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