Business ‘concerned’, Gordhan vows to fight while Zuma issues assurances

Charges against the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, has investors and economists worried about SA’s economic stability.

The latest developments involving the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, raise “concerns about the short-to-medium term stability at the National Treasury, especially at a time when the economy remains fragile”, the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) said in a statement today (Wednesday).

Yesterday, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) served Gordhan with summons relating to fraud charges stemming from his previous role as the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

NPA head Shaun Abrahams said Minister Gordhan‚ former South African Revenue Service (SARS) Commissioner Oupa Magashule and former deputy commissioner, Ivan Pillay, would be charged with fraud amounting to more than R1.1 million. This relates to Pillay's early retirement pay out.

Ernest Mahlaule, president of the chamber, urged all involved to follow due process “in order to quickly return the national focus to issues that will assist business, government and labour to expedite efforts to revive growth, restore confidence in the financial markets and put the economy on a sustainable path”.

“It is of paramount importance to ensure that due care is taken as the legal processes unfold so that investors are reassured about the rule of law in South Africa and that the country’s reputation as a viable investment destination is not harmed,” Mahlaule said.

Meanwhile, president Jacob Zuma has reaffirmed his support for Gordhan and has urged the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and other institutions concerned, to conduct the matter with the “necessary dignity and respect”.

"Our society is anchored on the rule of law as well as fair and just judicial processes. In this regard, minister Gordhan is innocent until and unless proven otherwise by a court of law. This is a fundamental pillar of our constitutional democracy and the rule of law,” said Zuma in a statement.

Zuma agreed that the decision by the NPA came at a “most sensitive time for the country” and pointed out that Gordhan has been successfully leading initiatives towards economic revival, bringing together business, government and labour in efforts to reignite growth so that jobs can be saved and created.

Gordhan meanwhile has vowed to fight the charges, noting in a statement that the fraud charges against him were “politically motivated and timed to destabilise the economy”.

He also ruled out the possibility of him stepping down from his Cabinet portfolio.

“The National Director of Public Prosecutions convened a press conference to unveil a set of charges that are patently without merit,” National Treasury said in a statement.

It noted that the summons — which was signed for by treasury staff — dealt with a matter that was “administrative and not criminal in nature”, adding that it was “quite clear that these legal proceedings are contaminated by abuse for political ends.”

Gordhan said he would comply with all legal requirements but accused the police of timing their decision to bring charges against him — two weeks before he is due to deliver the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement — in such a way it seemed designed to damage the economy.

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