Durban - The storm pressuring Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to “come clean” over his meetings with the Guptas intensified this week, but in a 2016 parliamentary question he acknowledged that he met the controversial family.
The EFF is gunning for Gordhan to be axed from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet after it appeared this week that he had contradicted himself in his statement to the state capture commission with his earlier responses.
Gordhan is due to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture this week where he is expected to confirm meeting the Guptas.
This followed the leaking of his statement to the media.
Independent Media has seen a parliamentary question by the DA on his meetings with the Guptas, and Gordhan confirmed meeting the family.
The question was asked by DA MP Michael Bagraim in 2016. He asked Gordhan if he ever met the Guptas or their close associates at their Saxonwold compound.
In his written response, Gordhan admitted to this.
“I have not attended any meeting with the Gupta family or anyone else at their Saxonwold estate. I have encountered one or more members of his family at public events on a few occasions, for example a cricket match.
“I have met one of the Gupta brothers at Mahlamba Ndlopfu around 2009/10, during which a brief discussion on small business finance took place,” said Gordhan.
However, the minister did not specify who in the Gupta family he met at Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the presidential residence in Pretoria.
The EFF has asked Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate Gordhan for meeting Ajay Gupta and an Indian billionaire, “Mr Ambani”, to discuss the possible acquisition of MTN.
The party has also sent Gordhan a list of 33 questions to answer, including his role, when he was commissioner of the SA Revenue Service (Sars), in the establishment of the “Rogue Unit”.
The EFF also wants Gordhan to clear the air on his role in the probe into Julius Malema’s tax affairs a few years ago. Malema was slapped with a massive tax bill by Sars.
The Nugent Commission of Inquiry is probing governance issues at Sars where the issue of the collapse of the tax system has come up.
Ramaphosa recently fired former Sars commissioner Tom Moyane in line with the recommendations of Judge Robert Nugent. In the leaked statement, Gordhan said he met the Guptas in Pretoria and then president Jacob Zuma had called him to this meeting.
Before he left government, former minister of finance Nhlanhla Nene said many ministers would appear before the Zondo Commission. Gordhan was expected to appear before the commission in September, but the hearings were rescheduled.
His appearance will be followed by that of former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan.
Nene decided to leave government after it emerged he had lied about meeting the Guptas. In his submission and testimony, Nene said he met the family several times.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has called for more ministers and former ministers to come and give evidence on state capture. The Active Citizens Movement (ACM) and Merebank Justice Network have rushed to the defence of Gordhan as the EFF guns for him.
Dr Ashok Chandika described the EFF’s call for Gordhan to be sacked as “desperate, ill-conceived and baseless”.
“Their desperation stems from the fact that they are on the back foot with respect to the VBS looting saga in which high-ranking EFF officials may be implicated,” said Chandika.
He said there were processes that had to be respected, including the Zondo Commission of Inquiry tasked with investigating allegations of state capture.
“We believe that Minister Gordhan will be vindicated yet again. Time and again, Pravin Gordhan has been proved to be innocent of any wrongdoing and we believe that the Zondo Commission must hear him out and make a finding,” said Chandika.
If the EFF had any concerns, they should take them to the Zondo Commission or other competent authority to investigate, said Chandika.
“It must be borne in mind that Minister Gordhan is not facing charges here, but is placing submissions before the commission. We also condemn the leaking of his submissions and trust that this will be investigated,” he said.
Chandika said Gordhan had displayed the requisite values of good governance and integrity in the conduct of his duties over decades.
“He is recognised by all right-thinking South Africans as being implacably in the camp of those fighting against corruption and looting, hence making him a target as part of a desperate fight-back that was anticipated – and will not be allowed to succeed,” said Chandika.
The ACM described Gordhan as a person who had served with integrity and shown commitment to serving in the best interests of the country.
“It is not a coincidence that the EFF is attacking Minister Gordhan after their own shady deals are exposed. If any person or party has information, they should take evidence to the Zondo Commission,” the ACM said.