Question the mandate of those calling for my head, says Gordhan
Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas say they have nothing to hide, and their focus is on cutting through the political noise to produce a world-class budget
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has called on South Africans to question where those who are calling for him to be removed are getting their mandate, saying he and the Treasury had nothing to hide.
"Whose interests are they actually protecting at this point in time and what are they trying to protect, hide or defend? We are quite clear about what we protecting and not hiding," he said during an interview on eNCA’s Justice Factor with Justice Malala on Monday night.
He said SA’s budget process was among the most transparent in the world.
"There is nothing to hide, nothing under the table, nothing hidden in bags or anything like that."
Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, were interviewed together ahead of Wednesday’s budget speech.
Calls for Gordhan’s removal have become more frequent from ANC structures loyal to President Jacob Zuma, including its women’s league, youth league and military veterans, putting pressure on the finance minister in the run-up to the delivery of his budget on Wednesday.
Former Eskom CE Brian Molefe will be sworn in as an MP on Wednesday, fuelling speculation of a pending Cabinet reshuffle. Molefe has been tipped as a replacement for Gordhan since last year.
The ANC held a special national executive committee meeting on Monday to approve policy documents, and there was speculation that Zuma loyalists would use the meeting to call again for Gordhan’s removal.
There is nothing to hide, nothing under the table, nothing hidden in bags or anything like that.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said only policy documents were discussed at the meeting.
At the party’s January lekgotla, Zuma said Treasury was a stumbling block to effecting policies to transform the economy.
When asked on Monday whether Gordhan or Jonas would still be in their jobs after the budget speech, the deputy minister replied that this depended on Zuma.
"We serve at the pleasure of the president so it depends on him quite frankly. We are ready for any eventuality anyway," he said.
Ministers come and go but both hoped that National Treasury’s capacity was sustained.
Jonas said "technically" there was support for the budget from the Cabinet and Zuma.
"It’s actually an interactive process and everyone contributes and the ultimate product, by the way, is a product of the Cabinet and government as a whole."
However, he said there was no way to avoid the political dynamics in the country and contestation was always at the centre of politics.
What was important was maintaining stability of the fiscas and high levels of efficiency within the fiscal system.
Despite what had been happening, fiscal policy in SA had remained consistent over the past couple of years.
Jonas said the country also needed to guard against the erosion of capacity of the state.
"Sometimes you find that part of the political noises might in themselves lead to the dismantling of key capacities within the state and that has dire consequences for development, growth and fighting inequality.
"We’ve got, like many other countries, all the elements which show promise of a greater future, but equally we have serious signals that we could slide in reverse to a situation that is less desirable."
Gordhan said SA had a lot of credibility because of policy consistency and assured that the "policy ship will continue to sail steadily".
The minister said the focus right now was not on the political noise but on producing the best budget possible for the country.
"We have a group of professionals who know their piece of work, who produce world-class numbers, policy advice and policy direction, not just to us but to the country as a whole. There is a lot of noise around us so that’s fine but our focus is how do we best serve SA at this time," he said.