Saturday 29 February 2020
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iol - 1 month ago

Stop hounding Gordhan: let him do his job

During the dark days of apartheid, most South Africans had their hearts in the right place - they opposed a system of government that suppressed them and treated people of colour as second-class citizens. And they showed their resistance in many ways - by speaking out against discrimination, participating in protests, joining community rallies, some even openly defying the regime’s oppressive laws. But the true freedom fighters were those who rolled up their sleeves and took to the trenches to liberate their fellow citizens. Among them was Pravin Gordhan, now the minister of public enterprises. Unlike many of the cardboard revolutionaries strutting through the corridors of power, Gordhan got into the politics of liberation out of sheer conviction. He realised it wasn’t going to be a bed of roses. He knew apartheid’s protectors were mean and ruthless bullies who did not take kindly to anyone advocating resistance to the regime. They would use any means at their disposal - even torture, imprisonment and murder - to achieve their evil ends. But Gordhan was single-minded about his mission in life. When democracy was finally achieved, people like Gordhan and his close comrades soon realised the euphoria of liberation was not endless. It was only the beginning of even bigger challenges. Despite a distinguished career as a government minister - he was twice minister of finance - Gordhan still finds himself the target of certain interest groups determined to hound him out of office. His detractors are an incongruous mixture of trade unionists, populist politicians as well as members of a dissident faction within the ruling ANC - each with their own agenda. We all know Gordhan has been a thorn in the side of those with their hands in the cookie jar. And when you decide to lead a campaign against corruption and looting, you make enemies. There’s also talk he’s being targeted as part of a secret campaign to topple his trusted ally, President Cyril Ramaphosa, from office in the months ahead. Others whisper of racial undertones in the stand-off. Gordhan’s made of sterner stuff. There was much talk in recent weeks that his days were numbered and that he was not expected to survive last week’s ANC national executive committee meeting. His critics say they want him out because he has failed to resolve the problems at Eskom and the other state-owned entities. Some even blame him for the inconvenience of load shedding. But let’s be fair. Gordhan did not initiate load shedding. He inherited the problem. Besides, the issues plaguing Eskom and the SOEs aren’t going to be resolved in the short term. As it turns out, Gordhan is still minister, but nobody’s sure how long he’s willing to endure all these unsettling pressures and distractions. He has a Herculean task on his hands and can succeed only if he gets the right kind of space and support to turn the SOEs around. He can’t accomplish this task if he has to spend half his time pulling daggers out of his back. * The view expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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