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Mon Sep 26 03:56:47 SAST 2016

Pravin's SABC face-off

QAANITAH HUNTER | 26 February, 2016 06:18
South Africa's Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his 2016 budget address to the parliament in Cape Town, February 24, 2016.
Image by: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has faced off the SABC and delivered on his promise not to participate in a post-Budget breakfast meeting under the banner of the Gupta family's New Age newspaper.

The Times understands the SABC had threatened to take the Treasury to court if it were prevented from broadcasting the breakfast, after Gordhan's insistence that the Guptas play no part in it.

The breakfasts, broadcast by the SABC, have in past years become a money-spinner for the New Age.

Ministers, and President Jacob Zuma, who is a personal friend of the Guptas, have featured in the programme.

The Sunday Times said Gordhan's stand highlighted the family's controversial relationship with the ANC, amid rumblings in the party and its allies of ''corporate capture'' of the state by powerful business interests.

After Gordhan presented the national Budget on Wednesday, Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile engineered a compromise between the SABC and e.tv.

Under this arrangement, Gordhan was to be interviewed on both channels early yesterday morning.

SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and acting group CEO Jimy Matthews had argued that the SABC had the exclusive rights to broadcast the event.

Gordhan was first interviewed yesterday by Leanne Man as on SABC's Morning Live . Viewers were invited to submit questions and comments.

At about 6.50am, Gordhan met ENCA anchor Dan Moyane and the SABC spoke to Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas.

By 7.15am Gordhan and Moyane had joined the guests at the breakfast to continue the broadcast.

During the breakfast briefing, the finance minister spoke out strongly against corruption and warned that if it were not tackled, South Africa was at a risk of becoming a "kleptocracy".

He said business ethics had to improve.

"There are many parts of transacting between the government and business that have gone seriously wrong and if we don't stop it we're going to become a kleptocracy. The government and the private sector must change the ethical system."

Gordhan is trying to restore government policy credibility in an economy hard hit by falling commodity prices, the worst drought in more than a century and sliding investor confidence.

He later told SAFMradio that money was not the problem - but how it is spent was.

"There is far too much corruption," he said.

Ratings agency Moody's Investors' Service yesterday welcomed Gordhan's planned tax increases, saying they were well targeted.

The JSE closed higher yesterday, in line with firmer European bourses, and the market favourably revised its view of the Budget.

Gordhan's Budget was aimed at warding off a downgrading of South Africa's sovereign debt to junk status, which would greatly increase the cost of government borrowing and be a blow to the ANC ahead of the local government elections.

- Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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