Finance minister Pravin Gordhan says that it is up to president Jacob Zuma whether or not he stays as head of Treasury, while showing no signs of leaving on his own accord.
Speaking at an event in Cape Town, Gordhan said that Cabinet was selected at the behest of Zuma, but added that “if required to deliver the budget in February, I will be willing to do that”.
Gordhan is under immense pressure to grow South Africa’s economy while keeping the state coffers from being drained through wasteful and irregular expenditure by state arms and state-owned enterprises.
Meanwhile, the finance minister is also being investigated by the special investigative unit of the SAPS, the Hawks, on nebulous charges of corruption, related to a SARS unit established under his watch.
It is speculated that the pressure on Gordhan was a move by president Zuma to force the minister to step down – or failing that, present a strong enough narrative of corruption that would make Gordhan’s continued presence as head of Treasury a ‘problematic appointment’.
Investors and markets are holdings tight for a possible Cabinet reshuffle later in the year, which could see Gordhan, and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, booted out of Treasury.
To date, Gordhan has shown resilience to the pressures of the Hawks and other political attacks, though was admittedly shaken when news first emerged that the investigative unit was honing in on him in early 2016.
In the most recent public show of power, when the Hawks summoned the minister to appear at its offices for a warning statement, Gordhan declined, and put the ball firmly in the court of the alleged conspirators to either arrest him, or leave him be.
A docket was handed to the National Prosecuting Authority soon thereafter. According to the NPA, there is no timeline in place to determine whether the minister will be formally charged or not.
‘Arrest me’: Gordhan
Gordhan said that no one is above the law, not even him – however he did not mince words at the Hawks charges.
“They (the Hawks) can arrest me now if they want to,” he said. “All the questions have been asked‚ all the questions have been answered.”
According to financial research group, Nomura, investors buy into the narrative of a Zuma vs Gordhan campaign, and see any outcome where Gordhan is removed from the Treasury as a win for Zuma and tenderpreneurs, and a loss for the country’s economy.
However, the group believes that Gordhan will stay and fight for as long as he is possible.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte is on record saying that there is no planned Cabinet reshuffle being discussed, though she said it was Zuma’s prerogative to appoint ministers as he saw fit.
When Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet in mid-December 2015 – giving former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene the axe and replacing him with the then-unknown Des van Rooyen – he did so unexpectedly and with minimal consultation with the ANC executive.
The move knocked the South African economy off a cliff, forcing the president to replace Van Rooyen with Gordhan.