Pravin Gordhan (Screenshot, News24)
Cape Town - "It's not easy to be a target and simultaneously serve the country, but you have a main focus and that's to draw up a credible budget and make sure we put South Africa's best foot forward."
This was the response from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday when he was asked if the fraud charges brought against him by the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) affected his preparations for the budget.
Gordhan said he has a "wonderful team" at National Treasury - individuals who choose to stay amid difficult circumstances. "They can work elsewhere, but they choose to work at Treasury. We should applaud them. They stay there, do their work and commit themselves to South Africa."
Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas appeared on News24 Frontline on Thursday morning. Interviewed by News24’s video editor Jerusha Sukhdeo-Raath and senior Fin24 journalist Matthew le Cordeur, Gordhan said there's still a "lot of noise in the air" ahead of his court appearance on November 2.
"You can see I'm choosing my words carefully. I said in New York to Bloomberg this is just political mischief. And the CEOs [who have come out in support of Gordhan] said this is politically motivated." Gordhan didn't elaborate further on the matter, though.
Asked about where National Treasury will find the R17.6bn he pledged to universities in his medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS), Gordhan said it's been done before. "We found the money in February and we'll find the money again."
Gordhan continued, reiterating the statistics he produced on Wednesday. "We have 0.5% growth. We have R23bn less tax revenue this year and we have a 48%-something debt to GDP ratio that requires consolidation. How do we navigate the fiscal path? You shift priorities. You cap the compensation budget. And you raise money through taxes."
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