Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has thrown down the gauntlet to his boss, taking a veiled swipe at President Jacob Zuma and accusing him and others of dereliction of duty.
He also lashed out at “greedy and selfish” leaders who brazenly looted state coffers and disregard democratic institutions, holding the country back.
Gordhan was speaking at the funeral service of Umkhonto weSizwe Struggle veteran Shirish Nanabhai at the Gandhi Hall in Lenasia, south of Joburg, on Monday.
Gordhan’s remarks will pile pressure on Zuma as the ANC top brass gather to discuss the quagmire the ruling party is in after last week’s Constitutional Court judgment.
The court’s 11 judges unanimously found that Zuma failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution over the public protector’s remedial actions on the Nkandla upgrades.
Gordhan said this was testimony to the “vibrancy and resilience of our democratic institutions, and all of us should be proud of them”.
“The constitution that we have is the embodiment of a social contract that we have with our people. Once our actions are seen to be contrary to this important document of our democracy, you must know we have moved away from our duty to serve our people. We have broken the contract,” the minister said, without mentioning Zuma by name.
He called on people to “rediscover and reclaim” the ANC’s original purpose, which was unity, non-racialism, non-sexism and prosperity for all “and not for the few”, adding: “Our democratic institutions are consistently trying to hold us back from an abyss of a dismal future for us in many ways”.
Gordhan’s strong views on the matter also hint that Zuma’s troubles have only just begun. It is Gordhan’s department that was entrusted by the court with the task of determining Zuma’s financial liability for the Nkandla upgrades.
Monday’s remarks mean it is unlikely the president will get an easy ride in this regard. The court gave Zuma 45 days to pay back the money, after the National Treasury’s determination.
Zuma has been facing growing calls from the opposition and within the ANC to step down following the Concourt’s damning judgment.
On Monday, the governing party held its extended national working committee meeting in Cape Town to look at the implications of the judgment, and Parliament was expected to discuss a motion of impeachment against the president today.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who addressed Nanabhai’s funeral service in his capacity as ANC provincial deputy chairman, said the party had always taken good decisions in the past.
“Many of us know when the ANC was going to consider what next to do, we knew it would act in the best interests of the people and the country. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we can say that today.”
Makhura said they would do everything in their power to rescue the ANC from itself and ensure that it “doesn’t lose touch with what South Africans feel, (because) if it does, that it will cease to be the ANC. Loyalty to our nation and loyalty to the people is more than just loyalty to the ANC itself.”
Gordhan was critical of endemic corruption that had infiltrated some sectors of society, saying: “For instance, democratic institutions and the well-being of our people are trampled upon in pursuit of self-aggrandisement. Today, it’s not enough for some to steal R1 million, you must have R10 (million), and when you have R10 (million), you must have a R100 (million).”
He said many democratic institutions were being tested. “They are also being influenced, or attempts are being made to influence them. Our task is to improve and strengthen, and not undermine and weaken our institutions,” he said.