From Bell Pottinger to street politics, here are 6 key quotes from Gordhan's testimony to Zondo | Fin24
 
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From Bell Pottinger to street politics, here are 6 key quotes from Gordhan's testimony to Zondo

Nov 20 2018 21:00
Khulekani Magubane, Fin24

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan went into defence mode during his second day testifying before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo’s commission of inquiry into state capture.

After a fairly uneventful appearance on Monday, Gordhan's second day before the commission was about defending himself from a number of allegations leveled against him about his engagements with members of the Gupta family.

Here are six quotes that summed up the hottest moments in Gordhan’s second appearance before the Zondo commission:

Clarifying a perceived omission

Gordhan told the commission that he had sought to clarify a reply he gave to Parliament that had the Economic Freedom Fighters pursue a Public Protector investigation into his conduct, as the opposition party saw this reply as an omission of fact or a bid to mislead Parliament.

"At the time of submitting the response, I had no recollection of the meeting. That said, it was a meeting with [Billionaire investor] Mr Makesh Ambani. It was not a meeting with any representative of the Gupta family," Gordhan said.

"The tongue has no bone"

Gordhan told the Zondo commission that it was no coincidence that the communications agency Bell Pottinger was active in South Africa during a period some characterise as the height of state capture, noting that those responsible for state capture had a vested interest in controlling public perceptions.

"You can say one thing in one moment and something else in another. If you look into the history of Bell Pottinger and the way in which it related to political events around the world, it seems to have an interesting history," he said.

Gordhan suggested that Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom Peter Hain be called to the commission to testify.

He said the commission could also benefit from enlisting the insights of a digital communications expert in understanding how organisations may use "fake news" to deepen social divisions and undermine democracy.

Treasury spurned breakfasts to avoid Gupta web

Gordhan detailed his experience of a broadcast project called the TNA Business Breakfast, which held breakfast discussion events which were broadcast on the SABC platform and sponsored by whichever state-owned company was at the centre of the given discussion on the day.

"It was something that ministers would attend as a courtesy of fulfilling duties under the direction of the president. It came to a point where National Treasury distanced itself from the operation, because we wanted nothing to do with the Guptas. I cannot say that ministers were ever made to pay for the platform and I was not asked to do so. If I were asked, I would have refused," he said.

Talks with Jonas and Gupta meeting allegations

Gordhan said while he had seen members of the Gupta family at various public gatherings, including official events as a minister and at cricket games, he never had, nor pursued, private meetings with the Guptas. He stressed that he ultimately had no interest in Billionaire investor Mukesh Ambani’s propositions.

"I have never been to Saxonwold, or the compound, nor did I even look for the shebeen. I have never gone to a Gupta wedding and I have never had cognisance of an invitation to one. The invitation found its way to the waste basket where it belongs," Gordhan said.

Gordhan said he met Ambani who was interested in South Africa, but that he had no knowledge of any perceived association with the Gupta family which may or may not have arisen as a result of this meeting.

Fight me at the committee, not on the streets

Gordhan had some strong words from those who sought to accuse him of impropriety in a number of issues, asking them not to resort to street politics to intimidate him, but to bring their evidence before a commission of inquiry, like he did.

The Economic Freedom Fighters have asked that Gordhan be investigated for potentially misleading Parliament on whether he ever met the Guptas during his years as finance minister.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane last week interviewed Gordhan over the pension pay out of former deputy South African Revenue Service commissioner Ivan Pillay.

"I am accountable to the people of this country, that elected us to Parliament, the Parliament as an institution and the political organisation that has enabled me to play this role, but I am not accountable to bullies. Those making allegations should, under oath, come to commissions like this one, say what they need to say and subject themselves to cross examination," said Gordhan.

Separate RET slogan from substance

Gordhan said the architects of state capture were so cynical in their pursuits that they used the stubborn economic imbalances of South African society as a stick with which to beat many honest government officials who fought to stop their misdeeds.

Gordhan said National Treasury works as part of a "solar system" of executive governance and distracting ordinary South Africans from this fact has led to people stoking hostilities against the department and seeing it as an institution which operates "outside of the government orbit".

"The Treasury and government policy must work in the direction to give effect to the mission. Treasury is not the only department in government. Too much is made of its role. They should all work in a broad set of policy parameters that led to the desired outcome," he said.

Zondo determined that Gordhan’s evidence will continue on Wednesday and that evidence from National Treasury officials, including former director general of Treasury Fuzile Lungisa, was likely to be heard after Gordhan is done.

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