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Gordhan court appearance: Thousands expected to show support

The State will likely ask for a postponement to allow time to find available dates for the trial date.

FILE: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Anthony Molyneaux/EWN

PRETORIA - While thousands of people are expected to gather outside the Pretoria Magistrates Court on Wednesday for the first appearance of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, the proceedings are expected take a few minutes.

Gordhan and former South African Revenue Services (Sars) officials Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula have been charged with fraud.

The case relates to the approval of Pillay's early retirement in 2009 and his subsequent re-appointment as a contractor.

Opposition parties, civil society organisations and concerned citizens are expected gather in their thousands around the Pretoria Magistrate's Court to show support for Gordhan.

Proceedings are however expected to be brief, Gordhan, Pillay and Magashula will first be registered as accused persons before appearing before the magistrate.

The State will probably ask for a postponement to allow time to find available dates for the trial to be set down.

Meanwhile, the Helen Suzman Foundation is also going to court this week to have the decision to prosecute reviewed and set aside.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams is still considering representations from the accused and has not yet decided whether or not to withdraw the charges.

At the same time, civil society groups and several opposition parties are working on joining forces for a march to the capital in support of Gordhan and against state capture.

Save SA's Lawson Naidoo says: "Save South Africa has been in discussions with the political parties that are planning to demonstrate in Pretoria on Wednesday.

"We're consulting them about a coordinated approach to the activities in Pretoria on that day and calling on all parties to work together to ensure that we send out very loud and clear message as the voice of the people of South Africa."

SACP GRANTED PERMISSION TO PICKET

The South African Communist Party (SACP) says it's been granted permission to picket outside the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday, in support of Gordhan and its calling on South Africans to join in their numbers.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, Democratic Alliance and civil society group Save SA have also indicated they will support the Finance Minister.

SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said, "We have done this because we believe that the charge was ill-considered. It came as a result of the change in terms after the NPA talked quite a lot about the so-called 'rogue unit' in Sars, but now charged Pravin on something completely different."

GORDHAN SUPPORTERS UNDETERRED BY REPORTS OF PLANS TO DROP CHARGES

The NPA has denied claims that it plans to drop charges against Gordhan.

Civil society groups and political parties say regardless of whether charges are dropped or not, the planned march in support of Gordhan and against state capture will continue on Wednesday.

On Sunday, the City Press reported that informal discussions are now underway between the NPA and the minster's lawyers and those of Pilly and Magashula who have been charged with fraud in relation to the early retirement and reemployment of Pillay.

According to the newspaper, Abrahams has drafted a letter which is expected to communicate his intention to drop the fraud charges before the trio appear in court on Wednesday, but the prosecuting authority says there is no truth to the reports.

Naidoo said: "We will continue with the actions that are planned for Wednesday because this is not just about the case against the minister of finance; it's about saving South Africa from state capture, from the manipulation of state institutions such as the NPA and Hawks."