Ousted South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan has dismissed an intelligence report used to justify his sacking as “absolute nonsense”.
Speaking to journalists after being fired late last night, the internationally respected Mr Gordhan said the report, which purported to show him plotting to overthrow president Jacob Zuma, was “not the basis on which you fire a minister”.
“There is an allegation circulating that sickens me, that I had secret meetings and the intention was to undermine this government,” Mr Gordhan added.
He said the Treasury had been subjected to the “most horrific attacks” in the past year, and said “we hope more and more South Africans will make it absolutely clear that our country is not for sale”.
Mr Gordhan added that South Africans would support his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, for refusing “a bag of cash” – a reference to allegations last year that Mr Jonas was offered a bribe to be finance minister by the prominent Gupta family in 2015. The Guptas deny this allegation.
Conflict over the influence of the Gupta business family, friends of Mr Zuma’s, formed a key part of the year-long power struggle between the president and his finance minister.
Mr Zuma prompted speculation of an imminent cabinet reshuffle by recalling Mr Gordhan from an investor trip to London on Monday, and sacked him in a late-night cabinet reshuffle on Thursday.
Mr Gordhan told reporters that he and Mr Jonas “learnt our fate from the TV screen. Not from any phonecall, chat or conversation. So that was I’m sure as interesting for us as it was for you.”Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president who is one of the main contenders to replace Mr Zuma as ANC leader later this year, called Mr Gordhan’s firing “unacceptable” – but said he would not resign in protest. “I will stay in my position to serve the people of this country,” he said.
South African assets have been hit hard by the news, with the rand, bond prices and bank stocks all tumbling and analysts predicting imminent downgrades to the country’s credit ratings.
Mr Gordhan said the government failed to attract enough offers to complete a planned sale of short-term debt on Friday morning, highlighting the lack of investor confidence.
(Library image: AFP.)