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Mon Jun 27 07:50:57 SAST 2016

The Big Read: A man among Zuma's mice

Justice Malala | 29 February, 2016 00:31
HOLDING THE LINE: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan with his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, and President Jacob Zuma at a pre-Budget meeting. He has shown the mettle, the character of a hero, by standing up against the abuse of power
Image by: ELMOND JIYANE/GCIS

Many commentators say there are no heroes in South African public life. They are wrong. There are many, and they are all around us.

But we need to keep our eyes open and see them at work - and acknowledge their bravery and encourage them to keep going.

Last week Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan joined this legion of heroes.

Gordhan might lose his job, which he has handled with such dignity and aplomb, this week.

It does not matter if he does. He will still be a hero. In just two-and-a-half months he has shown the mettle, the character, of a hero. He stood up against abuse of power and the wanton theft of our people's resources. He has spoken out against greed without fear.

For this he is already being vilified by those who want to profit from the state and its resources at the expense of the poor.

What has Gordhan done?

In just two-and-a-half months he has told President Jacob Zuma three things: state-owned enterprises will no long be used as piggy banks, and the days of Dudu Myeni running SAA as if it were her spaza shop are over.

He also told Zuma that there will be no blank cheque for building nuclear power stations just because the Russians say so, and state institutions such as SARS will not be used to open up opportunities for Zuma's cronies or stop probes into the affairs of the president himself.

Last week, Gordhan did what no minister in Zuma's administration has dared to do: he told Zuma's best friends - the Guptas of Saxonwold - that he would not be appearing at their sham New Age televised breakfasts. It is a stance that not a single one of Zuma's 34-member cabinet has taken.

Every single member of Zuma's cabinet has come running when the Gupta finger has been raised.

Zuma must have been furious with Gordhan. He must have been even more furious when he received numerous calls from the Gupta family asking him to intervene - and he couldn't.

He couldn't do it this past week, but his knives have been sharpened. All the compromised people with which he has packed the institutions of accountability are now sniffing around trying to find something with which they can besmirch Gordhan.

Given Zuma's history, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks and others will find something they can use to try to rattle Gordhan. They will try to use the law to shut him up. We know that the law will be an ass in such a case because it has been manipulated already.

The Hawks, which replaced the admired Scorpions - disbanded because Zuma wanted it so - is headed by Major-General Berning Ntlemeza.

Ntlemeza was appointed by Zuma despite Judge Elias Matojane saying in March last year that Ntlemeza had lied under oath and was dishonest.

"In my view, the conduct of the mthird respondent [Ntlemeza] shows that he is biased and dishonest. To further show that the third respondent is dishonest and lacks integrity and honour, he made false statements under oath," Judge Matojane said.

This is why, in September, when he was appointed to head the Hawks, the Congress of the People described the announcement as "a cynical, arrogant and damaging abuse of power" by Zuma. COPE was right.

These are the people we are dealing with now. They are the front and centre of our system.

Who will prosecute Gordhan when Ntlemeza has investigated him? It will be the NPA, another deeply compromised and totally discredited institution whose main job seems to be to intimidate anyone who might want to get a few answers out of Zuma.

Zuma knows how to win dirty fights and so I cannot guarantee that Gordhan will win. Indeed, like Anwa Dramat, formerly the Hawks head, and so many others, he is likely to lose.

Remember that Dramat started sniffing around some cases that implicated Zuma and today he is out of a job and faces further harassment and intimidation.

Gordhan is a hero because, after six years on the Zuma train, he developed a backbone and said "enough is enough".

Enough to looting of the state. Enough to cronyism. Enough to short-changing and stealing from the taxpayer. Enough to using the organisation of Nelson Mandela and Pixley kaIsaka Seme to steal.

On Thursday morning he warned that South Africa faced becoming a kleptocracy: "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."

Gordhan might be fired this week, or next week. But his work here is done. He used his voice to speak truth to corrupt power. That makes him a hero in my book. There are others in the ANC. I look forward to seeing them find their voice this week, and next week.

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