Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Pravin Gordhan. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Pravin Gordhan. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan took the feud the EFF is waging against him to the courts on Monday.

A central figure behind President Cyril Ramaphosa’s agenda to clean up state-owned enterprises that were brought to their knees by rampant corruption during his predecessor’s administration, Gordhan has borne the brunt of EFF attacks.

Its leader, Julius Malema, last week branded Gordhan, "a dog of white monopoly capital" as he was testifying to the Zondo commission on state capture.

Gordhan laid charges against Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu over their attacks.

In response, the EFF said it would lodge a criminal complaint against the minister.

In an affidavit submitted at the Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria, the minister said public comments by the EFF leaders against him amounted to "crimen injuria" and, alternatively, "criminal defamation".

He also brought a complaint of incitement to commit violence. The minister has also lodged a complaint with the Equality Court, demanding R150,000 in damages from the pair, an unconditional apology and the payment of costs.

He argues that the EFF leaders have impaired his dignity, character and political persona, and propagated hatred and violence against him.

The move follows a strong stance in Gordhan’s support from Ramaphosa, who on Sunday night reportedly told an SA Jewish Board of Deputies conference that SA should protect Gordhan and all others who are speaking out against corruption.

The EFF has in the past accused Gordhan of acting as if he, and not Ramaphosa, is the president. These comments are cited in Gordhan’s affidavit as well as comments by the pair that the minister is part of a "cabal which undermines African leadership", that he continues to run a "rogue unit" and that he is corrupt.

Gordhan says in his affidavit that these comments are "abusive, insulting and degrading to my character, and consequently impaired" his dignity. He said these comments are "unlawful and intentional".

The EFF in turn said it would open a case of corruption against Gordhan at the same police station on Tuesday morning. The party said it would lay complaints of "money laundering, corruption, racketeering, fraud, contravention of Intelligence Act, Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, and perjury". It did not detail specific allegations.

The EFF has also laid a complaint against Gordhan with the office of the public protector.

Gordhan has been investigated by the Hawks over the alleged rogue unit at the SA Revenue Service (Sars), a narrative now largely discredited.

He was charged with fraud over the pension payout of former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay, but the case was dropped by former National Prosecuting Authority boss Shaun Abrahams due to a lack of evidence. Attempts to charge Gordhan played havoc with the economy, fuelling a slump in the rand and prompting CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the country to sign a pledge to mobilise on his behalf.

The charges were eventually dropped in October 2016, sparking a rally in the currency.

It is unclear whether the EFF will try to revive the allegations around the unit and the Pillay pension payout.

Meanwhile, the SA National Editors Forum resolved at the weekend to meet the leadership of the EFF after the party made public threats against journalists, mostly female journalists, which culminated in threats of violence against the journalists.