Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan spent the second day in the witness stand at the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture in Parktown, Johannesburg on Tuesday and continued to dissect the anatomy of capture.
Gordhan, who was fired as finance minister by former president Jacob Zuma on March 30, 2017, testified about the dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene, his contact with the Guptas and the assault on National Treasury in 2016 and 2017.
This is everything you need to know:
1. Gordhan detests the Guptas
More than once he said that he had no “relationship” with the Guptas and rejected any assertion that he was friendly with them. The fruit basket invitation to the Sun City wedding? Went to the trash can. His encounter at Mahlamba Ndlopfu with “a Gupta” brokered by Zuma? It lasted two minutes “because he (Gupta…and Zuma) could see I wasn’t interested”.
2. The Guptas had no friend in Gordhan
National Treasury cancelled an agreement with newspaper The New Age and television news channel ANN7 to host a post-budget breakfast, Gordhan refused to take part in Mosebenzi Zwane’s attempt to strong-arm banks after they closed the Guptas’ bank accounts, Treasury and Gordhan launched a court bid to obtain a declaratory order on the minister’s powers in relation to banks, Treasury refused to allow the Denel Asia deal… and Gordhan never went to Saxonwold.
3. Did Gordhan lie to Parliament about meeting Ajay Gupta?
No, he told Deputy Chief Justice Zondo. When the DA asked the question about the meeting – in 2010 – he could not recall Gupta being present. The meeting also was not with Ajay Gupta, but with an Indian businessman who wanted to invest in MTN.
“I would not lie to Parliament. If I wanted to, I could have left the meeting out, but it is here and it is declared. There is ample evidence of both my and my office’s commitment to give clarity,” he said.
4. ‘If anyone has anything on me, man up and testify’
Gordhan was combative and feisty when he testified about the Guptas, the assault on Treasury and allegations against him made by the EFF. He told Zondo that if anyone had any information about wrongdoing involving him, they should bring it forward.
“I testified, under oath, at the Nugent commission (into the SA Revenue Service) and I’m doing so the same here (at the Zondo commission into state capture)… I’m not accountable to bullies. Those making allegations must come and subject themselves to cross examination… under oath… I have nothing to fear. I am not a commodity for sale, and the Guptas know it too.”
5. ‘The leadership has decided to deploy you to the Brics Bank…’ – Zuma
When Nhlanhla Nene was fired as finance minister, Zuma told him he was being deployed to a senior position in the fledgling Brics Bank because the country needed a senior representative there. Not so, Gordhan told the commission.
“There absolutely was no job at the Brics Bank commensurate with what Minister Nene was doing… I was involved in setting up the bank. I would know.”
6. Gordhan and Barbara Hogan’s testimony tell the same story
Hogan, a former minister of public enterprises who was also dismissed by Zuma, told the commission last week that Zuma went outside the limits of his powers when he intervened in the appointments of CEOs and boards of state companies. Gordhan echoed this and referred to his keen interest in SAA, where his close friend Dudu Myeni was chairperson. He called Gordhan to intervene on her behalf and also extended her tenure as chairperson.
“[His involvement] was extraordinary…there’s no doubt about that,” Gordhan said.
7. How did state capture work?
“The repurposing of state institutions worked like this: once you have captured institutions from which you can extract (like Eskom and Transnet) the next step was to capture the key investigations and prosecutions arm to ensure that there is no proper investigation into allegations and that there also is no proper prosecutions of offenders… you remove the good people at the top and replace them,” he said with reference to the Hawks. He said Berning Ntlemeza, its erstwhile commander, played a key role in capture.
8. Treasury was a main target of the capture network
Gordhan was “surprised” when he was reappointed finance minister by Zuma in December 2015, but a month later understood that Zuma realised his mistake. From that moment on both Gordhan and Treasury were the target of intimidation and a misinformation campaign led by the securocrats in government and the Gupta media network supported by Bell Pottinger.
“Lessons had been learnt with the dismissal of Nene in terms of market turmoil, the impact on the currency and losses of investment… firing me was not a palatable option… this time they used a different formula and it was to harass and literally chase us from office…”
9. R600m to be a crooked finance minister? What a bargain…
The Guptas offered Mcebisi Jonas – who was both Nene and Gordhan’s deputy finance minister – R600m to take the finance job once Nene was fired, in addition to R600 000 in cash. It would have been a bargain, Gordhan said, given how much money the Guptas would have made having a pliant minister look away for five years.
“They said they already made R6bn and wanted to increase it to R8bn… a minister like that would not have looked carefully at deals like Denel… it would have been hugely beneficial to the Gupta complex…” Gordhan said.