Cyril Ramaphosa's frantic message to Pravin Gordhan during Nenegate: 'Do not refuse'
"Do not refuse."
That is the message public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan received from President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte in 2015 to calm the markets after the sacking of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.
The pair wanted him not to refuse a request to take over as finance minister after Nene was unceremoniously axed on December 13 2015 and replaced by ANC backbencher Des "Weekend Special" van Rooyen.
Gordhan, testifying before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday, said he was the only cadre trusted to calm the economic situation.
He said that he received a call from former president Jacob Zuma's most trusted and powerful adviser, Lakela Kaunda, summoning him to the presidential guest house, Mahlamba Ndlopfu, on December 13 2015.
"Around the same time, Miss Jessie Duarte contacted me, explaining that I was going to be asked to do something by former president Zuma and that I should not refuse the request," said Gordhan.
"I received a similar message from deputy president of the ANC and the country at the time, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa. I believe Mr Ramaphosa and Miss Duarte had met the former president over the weekend regarding his surprise removal of Mr Nene and the appointment of Mr Van Rooyen," said Gordhan.
Gordhan told Zondo that when he arrived at the presidential guest house, Zuma expressed his confidence in Van Rooyen as he had "studied" his curriculum vitae and was satisfied that he met the requirements.
However, Zuma told Gordhan that he had been informed by many senior ANC officials that retaining Van Rooyen would further cause turmoil in the markets when they reopened that Monday.
The removal of Nene, who was keen to rein in government spending, sent the rand currency to record lows, sparked a sell-off in bank stocks and sent yields in both local and dollar-denominated debt soaring.
Gordhan, 69, who is now the minister of public enterprises, told Zondo it was clear that ANC officials were aware of the decision that Zuma would take as well as the impact it would have on the markets.
Gordhan held the post of finance minister from 2009 to 2014, when he was replaced by Nene and moved to the post of minister for co-operative governance and traditional affairs.
His testimony is continuing.