ANC split widens as chief whip calls on party leaders to quit

South Africa’s ruling party ‘worse than apartheid state’ over finance minister scandal

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan: was publicly charged with fraud and theft by the National Prosecuting Authority.  Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan: was publicly charged with fraud and theft by the National Prosecuting Authority. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko

 

The chief whip of the African National Congress has called on the ruling party’s leaders to resign, saying they are worse than those who led the apartheid regime.

In a number of interviews published on Sunday, Jackson Mthembu said that even the National Party, which was in power in South Africa from 1948 until apartheid ended in 1994, did not treat its own ministers the way the ANC was pursing finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

“He [Mr Gordhan] is pursued in a manner that is anti-democracy and anti-ANC, and some of us will stand against it. How can instruments of state be used to pursue our own minister? It goes beyond political bankruptcy. What’s more worrying is how our people have lost confidence in us,” he told City Press newspaper.

“When you see these things being done by a democratic state, your heart jumps,” Mr Mthembu said, “We are not only equal to the apartheid state, we are worse – because they never treated their ministers like this.”

Recent failures

The ANC chief whip went on to say that the party’s litany of recent failures had raised the question of whether those in charge were still fit to lead the former liberation movement.

“Speaking out against what is wrong is the only way to save the ANC, or we will continue to guillotine one another,” he insisted.

Mr Mthembu’s outburst has come two weeks after Mr Gordhan was publicly charged with fraud and theft by the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) national director of public prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams. The charges relate to an irregular pension payment made to a colleague at the South African revenue service in 2010.

Mr Gordhan’s first appearance in court is scheduled for November 2nd next.

However, rights organisation Freedom Under Law gave Mr Abrahams a deadline of last Friday to withdraw the charges against Mr Gordhan or face going to court, saying they were baseless. This was not adhered to by the NPA.

Charging Gordhan

Many political analysts believe that President Jacob Zuma is the man behind the NPA’s decision to charge Mr Gordhan, because the finance minister has been intent on fighting government corruption and overspending since he was appointed last December.

Both Mr Zuma and Mr Abrahams have denied this is the case, but it was revealed in the Sunday Times that the two men had a meeting at the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg the day before Mr Gordhan was charged.

Mr Abrahams has said he attended the meeting at the behest of justice minister Michael Masutha to discuss the nationwide third-level student protests about fees. He also confirmed that Mr Zuma was present.

But many observers find it inexplicable that the list of people invited to such a meeting did not include higher education minister Blade Nzimande and police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, whose departments are directly affected by the fees crisis.

Such has been the outcry against the charging of Mr Gordhan that he is expected to receive widespread support at his hearing from civil society groups and opposition parties, as well as a significant number of senior ANC members.