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Gordhan: Reforms at SOEs delayed by ‘fightback’ campaign

Pravin Gordhan launched urgent court action to suspend the Public Protector’s remedial action and to have her report on the Sars intelligence unit reviewed and set aside.

FILE: Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday said he was confident the country’s troubled state-owned enterprises (SOEs) could be on a better footing within the next year and a half to two years, depending on the fightback against the government’s efforts to root out corruption and state capture.

Gordhan is playing a key role in cleaning up after years of malfeasance at SOEs and was under extraordinary political pressure, particularly from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The EFF has sung the praises of Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who had issued two adverse reports against the minister.

Gordhan on Wednesday launched urgent court action to suspend Mkhwebane’s remedial action and to have her report on the Sars intelligence unit, which she said was illegal, reviewed and set aside.

“I’m confident that given a bit of time, and if the fightback against the kind of changes that we are trying to make to stop the malfeasance to get rid of the corruption, to clean up the procurement lines, to get the cost structures in each of these entities appropriately balanced – if we can get that right, without the kind of interference we’re seeing at the moment, then we should be on a pretty good footing in the next 18 to 24 months.”

He was speaking ahead of presenting his budget in Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

Gordhan said this was why it’s crucial to oppose and expose the “fightback” to ensure SOEs could play the role that they should be in growing the economy.

The minister said he was exercising his legal right to challenge Mkhwebane in court just as she believes she was doing.

Her report finding the Sars unit’s establishment was illegal and that Gordhan had violated the Constitution came after two judges found nothing improper was done.

“In fact, the public finds it quite ridiculous that something that might have happened seven, eight or 10 years ago is now revived in a systematic way – at the behest of the same individuals – in order to make sure that our job, which is to fix SOEs, is interfered with. And the question we should be asking, is why the interference with this business we have to do?”

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