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Pravin Gordhan: My spine is still very straight

Oct 14 2016 15:26
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town - The political mischief he has been subjected to in the past year will be found in any political party formation in society, said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday. 

“But the question is who ultimately wants justice in South Africa? It’s about which cause is the right cause,” Gordhan told delegates of the Thomson Reuters Africa Summit held in Cape Town through Skype. 

A composed and relaxed Gordhan addressed the audience for about 15 minutes before he responded to questions posed to him by Reuters editor-at-large Axel Threlfall.

In his opening remarks, Gordhan said rating agencies reviewing South Africa’s sovereign credit rating at year-end would ultimately want to see milestones being reached and progress made. 

READ: Gordhan says he will do all he can to fight 'frivolous' fraud charges

“So I’m saying to many detractors: join us in saving South Africa and in creating a better economy, ensuring that these reform, restructuring and transformation processes work – whether in relation to labour stability or reforms of our state-owned entities. I’m sure we’ll come out with models of governance that will assure the observers and critics that we are making progress.” 

Threlfall’s first question to Gordhan was how he was holding up, considering the charges brought against him by the Hawks earlier in the week. 

“Oh, my spine is still very straight,” Gordhan said. “My generation are activists of the movement of Mandela, Sisulu, Kathrada, Slovo and many others. And this gives one the sense of what is right and just at any one point in time, and to continue to do what is necessary to promote justice and social justice. But more importantly, to stand up against injustice. That continues to inspire tens of thousands of activists in this country.” 

Threlfall then asked Gordhan how confident he is that South Africa would stave off a ratings downgrade. 

Gordhan responded by saying government has listened carefully, and the answer that will be given in the mini budget on October 26 is that the country is sticking to its fiscal targets. 

“Ratings agencies are going to ask this, as well as whether there’s enough coherence among the critical mass in government and society that will generate confidence and growth to move in the right direction. And to all these questions I can answer in the affirmative.” 

Gordhan was subsequently asked about the kind of feedback he is getting about South Africa from the overseas community. 

“People who have been in contact with other emerging markets are saying you in South Africa have a lot going for you,” he responded. “We should work and build on that. There’s also a lot of interest in the joint initiative of labour, government and business. And I think South African leaders in all sections need to know we already have a foundation we can build on, and strengthen it.

“The disagreements we can deal with later, but right now we should present a united front,” Gordhan added.

Asked if the charges against him are testing his loyalty towards the ANC, Gordhan said: “Not at all. I’ve been an ANC-associated person for 45 years. And there are many like me - even those who go beyond that.” 

Gordhan said in any country there are “opportunistic elements” that would use the word transformation to mean “benefit for me – the individual”. 

“But the ANC has always been the champion for all South Africans, but even more so the ANC is the undying champion of the poor in South Africa.” 

Threlfall’s parting shot to Gordhan was whether he thinks he will be finance minister in January next year, even if South Africa gets an investment downgrade. 

“If I don’t get alternative instructions, I’m here to stay,” Gordhan concluded to loud applause from the audience. 

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