Gordhan: I was fired so my court action on Guptas could be stopped
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan believes that his sacking as finance minister in 2017 was a move to halt court processes regarding the closing of Gupta bank accounts.
Gordhan‚ who was testifying at the commission of inquiry into state capture on Wednesday‚ described the events leading up to former president Jacob Zuma’s surprise cabinet reshuffle in March last year‚ which saw Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas fired.
Gordhan was on an investor roadshow in London with former National Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile when they were summoned back to South Africa by the presidency.
This was only days before the North Gauteng High Court was to hear arguments in Gordhan's application seeking declaratory relief from having to intervene in the banks' closure of Gupta-related accounts.
"One could surmise that the intention was to get rid of us‚ put in another minister and withdraw the application to the Pretoria High Court‚" Gordhan told the commission.
Fuzile and Gordhan flew to London on March 26.
"As we literally hit the tarmac at Heathrow‚ I put my phone on and there was a letter from the director-general in the presidency instructing all of us to return immediately.
"The question was‚ what do we do with our time? And also Jonas wasn’t with us. Fuzile and I then discussed the message and said we owe a responsibility to the meetings scheduled‚" said Gordhan.
"For the rest of the day‚ we said let's meet the investors and interact with the ratings agencies. We then had our flight rescheduled for later that evening."
The next day‚ Zuma‚ relying on a so-called intelligence report that implicated Gordhan in an alleged plot to undermine Zuma's administration with the help of international companies‚ informed leaders of the Communist Party and the ANC of his intention to remove Gordhan.
"I reject and deny these allegations and I never saw the report as a whole‚" said Gordhan. "This has got some ludicrous suggestions."
Upon his return to SA‚ Gordhan said‚ he made his way to ANC headquarters and met with then secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
"Mantashe informed me that Zuma had met with the top six [ANC officials] the previous day and that some intelligence report was presented to them. Mantashe told me that Zuma told them regardless of the intelligence report‚ his relationship with me had irretrievably broken down‚" said Gordhan.
"Mantashe said Zuma would prefer that I resign rather than him firing me."
Gordhan was axed on March 30‚ four days after he was instructed to return from the roadshow.