Outgoing Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas have slammed allegations contained in a dubious intelligence report which said they had a secret meeting during a roadshow abroad, in an attempt to undermine the country and its economy.
Gordhan also warned South Africans to “connect the dots” when it came to certain events and happenings, in order to see the bigger picture.
He and Jonas addressed the media on Friday in the National Treasury building, just hours before they were set to be removed as ministers.
New ministers, appointed during President Jacob Zuma’s sudden Cabinet reshuffle late on Thursday night, are set to be sworn in on Friday evening at 18:00.
Earlier on Friday during the press conference, Gordhan said the allegations about him and Jonas contained in the alleged intelligence report were upsetting.
He said both he and Jonas had joined the liberation struggle as youths, to help bring South Africa to where it was today.
“What sickens me is the allegation that I had secret meetings to undermine this country… let me say categorically, there was no such meeting. Why would we do that?” an angry Gordhan asked.
He urged South Africans to see a pattern of events, and not to view each incident in isolation.
‘Not for sale’
“Connect the dots, don’t just look at individual dots. Even if the State of Capture report is one third truth, that is concerning to us,” he said.
He said both his and Jonas’ souls were “not for sale” and that their integrity was being undermined.
“Our integrity needs to be undermined and discredited to satisfy another objective,” Gordhan said.
He went on to explain how he and the Director General Lungisa Fuzile had left for London on Sunday night to meet with rating agencies Standard and Poor, Moody’s and Fitch.
The trip was in order to secure about R5 trillion worth of investments for the country.
Ordered to return
Shortly after their arrival on Monday, Gordhan received an SMS from the Presidency, telling him to return.
Upon their arrival back in South Africa, Gordhan and Fuzile went to ANC’s headquarters, Luthuli House, to give secretary general Gwede Mantashe a report back on what they had done in London.
“We had a 20 minute conversation, reported to him about our trip and what we intended to do. And to reassure him that Mr Jonas is in SA, much to his surprise.
“Nothing that happened there had anything in relation to what happened last [Friday] night,” Gordhan said.
Jonas said: “All South Africans must wake up and smell the coffee.”
He said there were big lessons South Africans needed to learn.
Protection of interests
“There are certain patterns [in the past couple of years]that we’ve seen, events that point to particular interests being protected, consolidated and deepened.”
Jonas described matters dealt with in the Public Protector’s State of Capture report as the “the pinnacle” of that.
“It probably consolidates a picture of a state or institutions increasingly becoming vulnerable, increasingly being centres for attack and looting.”
He said one didn’t have to be a genius to see the trend in the country and the urgency that was needed to deal with it.
“What you have in front of you is history unfolding. At the centre of history unfolding is democracy as a sense being undermined [and]the use of state resources to serve particular interests,” Jonas said.
He said the political situation in South Africa needed to be dealt with.
“What is the political moment of a country?
“By the time the disaster hits the country, we will be accused of having lived with our eyes wide shut, when actually political decay is happening. We have a challenge – it’s a national challenge – it’s not about Pravin Gordhan, not about Jonas, this is clearly something as a country we need to be worried about.”
Hard work of Treasury
Gordhan maintained that the hard work done by Treasury officials should not be undone.
“Any undoing of confidence or decline of rating status of country will hurt ordinary South Africans. South Africans must not pay for nonsense that happens elsewhere,” he said.
He said there was some positive news, as the rand was still positive in the emerging markets.
The political competition taking place within the ANC was like in any party, the only difference was that the ruling party needed to tell its story in a convincing way in order to make a strong case for remaining within investment grade, Gordhan said.
“Unless we shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said.