The Black Business Council (BBC) has confirmed that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan accused the lobby group of trying to capture the Treasury.
In a tense meeting at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), Gordhan also accused the council of representing the interests of a single family, believed to be the Guptas, without providing names.
Gordhan was supposed to have an audience with the council and Business Unity SA (Busa) at Nedlac on Friday as part of post-budget engagements, an annual event.
Ranjeni Munusamy’s article on Daily Maverick outlines the hits that Gordhan’s ministry is taking from the ruling party’s external influences.
Perhaps Gordhan’s boldness is based on the fact that he is on borrowed time at the finance ministry. It is no secret that Zuma does not want him there but is hamstrung by the fact that the country needs him to be there.
If the world were not on its head, the greatest criticism of the 2017 Budget would have come from Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema. Malema is the biggest and most vocal opponent of the South African government. The Budget represents the financial game plan of that government and Gordhan is the person who articulates who gets what, and how.
Yet in the bizarreness of the world as it is, Malema had this to say about Gordhan: “Pravin is a unifying figure in this difficult moment. He gives that sense of hope in a situation of hopelessness.”
Malema said that when Gordhan stood to speak, the country united behind him.
“We saw some people in the ANC benches were reluctant to applaud him,” Malema remarked. Gordhan had a standing ovation from most of the MPs in the House, including from the two main opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and EFF. But some of his Cabinet colleagues did not stand to applaud him, including Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu and State Security Minister David Mahlobo. This prompted howls from the opposition benches.
Two weeks ago, President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address was delayed by almost an hour due to interjections by the EFF. They were eventually muscled out of the House by parliamentary security. The DA then staged a walkout, leaving Zuma to address a half empty chamber.
In stark comparison, it was the opposition that applauded Gordhan enthusiastically on Wednesday. When Gordhan acknowledged Jonas at the end of the speech, there was extended applause from the opposition benches. Gordhan repeated his thanks to Jonas, perhaps deliberately. The opposition parties repeated their applause.
For the first time, the Budget speech was interrupted, albeit briefly. The EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi objected to Gordhan thanking Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for their guidance.
“There is no guidance that Zuma gives,” Ndlozi said.
Outside the House, Malema was more scathing. Responding to widespread expectations of a Cabinet reshuffle that might see Gordhan or Jonas replaced by discredited former Eskom chief executive officer Brian Molefe, Malema said this would be “the most stupid thing ever”.
“Pravin is the only person (in Cabinet) with some sense of respect from everyone. I think Zuma sitting there so wishes it was him who was given such respect and a standing ovation by everyone, irrespective of political differences. If you got such a person and you throw such a person away, it will be his loss. But Zuma is known for own goals,” Malema said.