'I still have the notepad': witness told of plan to oust Pravin Gordhan

10 December 2020 - 16:13
A witness at the Zondo inquiry testified that she was told in 2016 that then president Jacob Zuma would remove Pravin Gordhan as finance minister.
A witness at the Zondo inquiry testified that she was told in 2016 that then president Jacob Zuma would remove Pravin Gordhan as finance minister.
Image: Sunday Times/Alon Skuy

Former Trillian Financial Advisory CEO Mosilo Mothepu says she was informed in March 2016 that then president Jacob Zuma planned to fire finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Mothepu had earlier testified before the commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday that she had also been informed beforehand that another finance minister,  Nhlanhla Nene, was going to be fired in October 2015 — a few weeks before he was removed.

Mothepu told the commission that she was informed by Trillian financial director Tebogo Leballo on March 16 2016 — on her birthday — that Gordhan would be removed.

She said Trillian Management Consulting CEO Bianca Goodson was also present.

“We were sitting in a very tight open-plan and it was the 16th of March. I remember as it was my birthday. And Mr Leballo tells me and Bianca that the president wants to fire minister Pravin Gordhan.”

Mothepu said Leballo was whispering and he then wrote something down on her notepad.

“I still have the original notepad.”

In the note, Leballo wrote the words: “changing finance minister”.

“I was shocked and horrified, given the fact that Nenegate had such a devastating economic impact on SA and that the former president was considering moving the new minister who had stabilised the market. This caught me off guard,” Mothepu said.

Mothepu said she felt the advancement of capturing the National Treasury was still happening.

Gordhan was removed from his position a year later, on March 31 2017.

Mothepu said a few months after Lebello's revelation, she sent a statement to then public protector Thuli Madonsela‚ with detailed allegations of how the Gupta family had allegedly exercised influence over Zuma and other senior government officials to score lucrative state contracts.

“What ensued was nine criminal charges that Trillian laid against me,” she said. The charges included cybercrime, fraud, theft, perjury and corruption.

“It was shocking how I was called by the police to give a warning statement. He tells me ... that because of who these people are and the political connections they have, he has to expedite my case,” she said.

Mothepu said when her lawyer went to see the policeman, he admitted there was no case against her but that he was getting pressure from “upstairs” to bring the case to  prosecution.

Mothepu said following her disclosure, she could not find work for two years because employers doubted her integrity.

She said whistle-blowers like herself and former Eskom head of legal compliance Suzanne Daniels were unemployed.

“We have lost our livelihoods. Corporates, give us a chance.”

Mothepu suggested that legislation should be amended to protect and reward whistle-blowers.

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