Gordhan: Opposition parties question motive for summons
The Finance Minister, Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay face several charges, including fraud.
CAPE TOWN - Opposition parties in Parliament have questioned the motive for the summons against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Gordhan has been listed as accused number one in an indictment brought against him and two other former South African Revenue Services (Sars) officials.
The minister, Oupa Magashula and former commissioner Ivan Pillay face several charges, including fraud.
Opposition parties have described the formal summons as a political stunt and a poor show of leadership on the part of President Jacob Zuma.
The Inkatha Freedom Party's Narend Singh also questions whether Gordhan's indictment is a deliberate attempt to destabilise the economy.
"Well the timing of issuing summons leaves a lot of unanswered questions just two weeks before the MTBPS and one gets the impression that somebody is trying to bring the country down and we hope that's not the case."
The Economic Freedom Fighters' Nazier Paulsen echoes these sentiments.
"This the length within which the ANC will go to get the hands on state resources and we can see the impact this move has on the economy of the country within a short space of time, they've wiped out R50 billion on the stock exchange."
Two weeks before the minister is expected to deliver the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in the National Assembly, the Freedon Front Plus' Pieter Mulder said the move amounts to sabotage.
"Surely you can make a solution to get it compromised, do this type of thing maybe after December once the grading agencies are finished. It's seems like we calling to be downgraded the way they're doing it. Surely the leadership and the president could have found ways to solve this?"
Gordhan is expected to appear in court next month.
FINANCE MINISTRY STATEMENT
Just minutes after Gordhan's lawyers responded to the fraud charges against him, the Finance Ministry released a statement.
It says it's unfortunate that the Hawks have, once again, chosen to initiate legal proceedings at a moment that appears calculated to maximise the damage inflicted on the economic wellbeing of South Africans, as well as the processes of government.
The ministry says that despite Gordhan's full cooperation with all legal requirements, the Hawks chose to arrive unannounced at the minister's private home this morning.
It says shortly thereafter, without the courtesy of prior indication, National Prosecuting Authority Shaun Abrahams then convened a press conference to unveil the charges, which it labelled "patently without merit".
The ministry says it's quite clear that these legal proceedings are contaminated by abuse for political ends and it has raised concern that Abrahams chose to dwell extensively on allegations about the Sars investigative unit, which he is not yet able to prosecute.
Minister Gordhan said: "I intend to continue doing my job. The cause of defending ethical leadership in government and throughout society is too important to allow ourselves to be deterred by this kind of harassment. The fight against corruption, maladministration, and waste of public resources will continue."
Meanwhile, the announcement reverberated across the markets, knocking the rand by over 3% against the dollar.
This issue has the potential to expose serious fault lines within the ANC.
ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu, Gauteng Premier David Makhura and the SACP have all already publicly backed Gordhan.
But the ANC Women's League has appeared to take a different view, suggesting that anyone who questions the independence has their own agenda and that imperialists are trying to stop the economy from transforming.
Luthuli House itself has already called on people involved in this to stay silent, but it seems that the instruction is being ignored.
That may be an indication of how strongly people feel about this issue and how divisive it could become if President Jacob Zuma tried to take any action against Gordhan.