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Gordhan opens up on that fateful Heathrow SMS

Aug 04 2017 07:54
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan said the SMS he received to return immediately from an investor roadshow in London alienated key business leaders.

Gordhan, speaking at The Gathering in Cape Town, said he was seated in an airplane on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport in London on March 27 when he was informed that he had to cancel an investor roadshow and return home immediately.

A few days later at midnight on March 30, President Jacob Zuma announced a major Cabinet reshuffle which saw Gordhan and his then deputy Mcebisi Jonas removed from their roles at Treasury.

A report stating that Gordhan and Jonas planned to meet foreign businesses to discredit Zuma was behind the reason for the president's recall of the leaders. This report was later discredited.

Gordhan said that he had to leave behind business leaders when he left London on that fateful Monday, when the rand plunged by over 3%.

“We left behind two business leaders and alienated those leaders,” he said.

Gordhan was explaining the work he had done to partner government and the private sector to push an agenda of inclusive growth. The aim was to increase economic growth and employment figures, while closing the gap on inequality, he said.

This one act of recalling him from London was an example of how South Africa keeps shooting itself in the foot.

He said that 75% of economic output comes from the private sector. “Our inability to get the private sector to have more investment was a problem for the economy,” he said.

“We don’t get the importance of inclusive growth,” he said. “We tried to build a broader partnership with the private sector.”

The CEO Initiative, which was a key group that worked with Gordhan, was sceptical of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba when he was appointed.

However, after a meeting in June, it said it remained committed to its partnership with government.

“The meeting saw a frank and open discussion, in which it was acknowledged that events of the last few months have led to a breakdown in the trust that was built among business, labour and government over the preceding year.

“We are encouraged by the minister and his team’s commitment to work on restoring confidence in the country as a matter of urgency. All parties also agreed that, given the particularly challenging macroeconomic conditions, it is now more important than ever to act decisively and with sincerity to improve the country’s growth trajectory,” they said.

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