The fate that befell former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, last Friday confounded most rational thinkers.
The terse manner in which Gordhan was first recalled from the investor summit abroad, and then the sacking of both officials, left everyone in the dark as to why it was thought necessary. At the same time, it opened the doors wide for speculation and that dreaded new disease, disinformation. The timing was obviously meant to escape immediate reaction, although this now appears to hang in the balance.
The bizarre attempt to oust Gordhan late last year defi(l)ed all logic. How anyone could hope to make such ridiculous charges stick baffles the mind, and point to a total underestimation of the intelligence of the average South African.
Jackson Mthembu, Chief Whip of the ANC reacted to the announcement of their dismissal by saying that the only crime Gordhan and Jonas committed was being incorruptible – a view shared by most rational thinkers in South Africa.
The information below is extracted from two reports in Polity.
Gordhan addressed media and staff at a briefing following his axing on the early hours of Friday morning. He and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas were met with rousing applause when they walked into the room at Treasury.
Speaking on the Cabinet reshuffle, he said: “We also stayed up like you last night – we learnt our fate from the TV screen, not from a phone call or chat or conversation.”
Gordhan said it was questionable that the integrity of Treasury had to be undermined and discredited to satisfy another objective.
He served as finance minister from 2009 to 2014, taking the post up again in 2015 following the events dubbed as 9/12 when President Jacob Zuma replaced Nhlanhla Nene with David van Rooyen. “I have to remind people that I didn’t apply for this job… I was asked as part of national service to take this job.”
He added that it was a “great privilege” to serve South Africa as minister and deputy minister of finance. “We must thank President Zuma for the opportunity to serve South Africa.”
“South Africans need to ensure they have the right political leadership and administrative leadership, fulfilling responsibilities within the ambit of the Constitution and in line with public interest,” he said.
Axed Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas on Friday said that state capture is a national issue all South Africans need to take a stand against.
South Africa is at a crossroads which should not be taken lightly, said Jonas.
Jonas spoke about state capture and how it is up to South Africans to take a stand against it.
“When things look ugly and bad, institutions are weakened and development suffers almost permanently in some countries.” He added that certain events and patterns over the years indicate that “particular interests” are being protected.
The State of Capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela consolidates a picture of state institutions which are increasingly becoming vulnerable, he added.
“We have a national challenge. It’s not about Pravin Gordan, it’s not about Jonas. This is clearly something as a country we need to be worried about.” Gordhan said it is up to communities to rise up. “Fragmented voices do not have the weight it requires. Masses make history, not individuals.”
Save South Africa leader and businessperson, Sipho Pityana, said South Africans must make a decision to stand up and fight. “This is not a fight for Treasury, this is a fight for the sovereignty of our nation.”
The tragedy of these events reminded me again of one of the finest pieces of acting I ever experienced. While the motivation for Jack Nicholson’s brilliant speech in the movie, “A few good men” does not apply in the case of Gordan and Jonas, the words certainly reflects the views held by patriotic South Africans.
A few good men
The following excerpt from the 1992 movie probably sums up the feelings of most people who has the interests of the country at heart:
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way.
Here is a link to the movie clip if you want to relive it.