Gordhan says politicians must stop ‘narrow politicking’ in the interests of SA

The finance minister says SA's level of debt is sustainable & its budget deficit is being well-managed.

FILE: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says South Africa's level of debt is sustainable and that its budget deficit is being well-managed.

But he has repeated his appeal for politicians to stop narrow politicking in the interests of the country.

Gordhan is at the forefront of efforts to convince ratings agencies not to downgrade South Africa to junk status.

He was speaking in the National Assembly yesterday, a day after responding to weekend reports that he was about to be arrested over an intelligence unit set up at the South African Revenue Services (Sars) while he was still commissioner.

Gordhan has labelled rumours and accusations about 'espionage' activities at Sars as false and malicious, but speculation about moves to oust him have alarmed investors.

He kept strictly to the business at hand in Parliament yesterday, giving no hint of the distress he says the reports of his imminent arrest have caused him, or their impact on the rand.

"We do not have unsustainable debt, we're managing our deficit well. What we should all be focusing on is how do we inspire confidence in our economy and how do we stop shooting ourselves in the foot..."

Responding to opposition criticism during debate on the Appropriations Bill, Gordhan appealed for an end to grandstanding.

"Let's move away from point-scoring when it comes to the common good."

Gordhan says a ratings downgrade for South Africa will hurt everyone, whether rich or poor, no matter what their political party they support.

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Gordhan was yesterday given a vote of confidence in the National Assembly, where parties were voting on his R1.3 trillion national budget.

Members of Parliament (MPs) from most parties expressed their support for Gordhan, despite objecting to parts of his budget.

The Democratic Alliance's (DA) David Maynier referred to Gordhan's appeal.

"Who do the National Treasury staff require protection from? Of course the answer is clear, President Jacob Zuma and his proxy forces, including the sugar daddies in Dubai, the peddlers of Project Spider Web and the wreckers in Cabinet who support him. And so we choose to stand against wickedness and support the National Treasury vote."

The minister appealed to South Africans to protect Treasury staff serving the national interest 'to the best of their ability'.


Meanwhile, the African National Congress (ANC) has said it is concerned by the rate at which sensitive information is being leaked to the public.

The party has voiced its suspicions about the claim against the finance minister, which it says was planted to negatively influence decisions being taken by ratings agencies.

Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said whether or not investigations are underway, it's concerning that professional channels aren't being adhered to.

"If we don't do things properly, follow channels professionally, particularly from bodies like prosecuting authorities that have the authority to do all this work. For example, [the Sunday Times report], how come a newspaper got to know, even if it was true, that someone would be arrested and so on."