PRAVIN GORDHAN is a pharmacist who was deployed to the South African Revenue Services (Sars) to collect business and personal tax and then later dispensed budget allocations as Finance Minister. His endeavours were for the good health of our economy or so we thought!! Gordhan is a villain who comes across as a Saint to those too lazy to take an endoscopic look into his character as master conspirator.
Post ’94 general election Gordhan was sent to Parliament on the ANC ticket and was instrumental in producing the white paper on local government. In 1998 he was appointed Sars Deputy Commissioner, in November 1999 he was elevated to Commissioner. This is a position he held for the next decade until he was has appointed Finance Minister in 2009. His decade long career at Sars turned out to be a convoluted tale of conspiracies, spying and political machinations. In 1999 Gordhan recruited his comrade Ivan Pillay as Chief Compliance, Risk and Enforcement. Both Gordhan and Pillay date way back from the ANC’s underground network (Operation Vula). In 2007 Gordhan established an investigative unit which later became known as “Rogue Unit.” This is the same unit that planted spy cameras and bugs at National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and now defunct Scorpions offices. The focal point was to keep abreast of Zuma’s corruption case. This unit consisted of self-confessed apartheid spies like Johann Van Loggerenberg who used to spy on comrades.
In 2008 Pillay was appointed as one of the four Deputy Commissioners to Gordhan despite his lack of higher education qualification. Pillay further appointed Yolisa Pikie as his Advisor accumulating R900 000 per annum with a fake B.Com degree. In August 2009 Oupa Magashula was appointed Sars Commissioner after Gordhan was appointed Finance Minister. On 12th August 2010 Pillay submitted a memorandum to Magashula imploring him to recommend his early retirement and re-employment on a three-year contract. Pillay further requested revenue service to pay his R1.2m penalty for early retirement. Pillay desperately needed cash to settle his children’s school fees. Magashula bent over backwards and went along with Pillay’s request which was later approved by Gordhan. Finance Minister then approved appointment of British national Robert Head as Magashula’s Advisor with R3m salary per annum. As part of his appointment, Head demanded his wife’s appointment (Elizabeth Hargreaves) as Sars website manager at an annual R2m salary. Gordhan remarked that both appointments were above board.
Sars Commissioner Oupa Magashula later appointed 28 year-old Chartered Accountant without following recruitment process. Indian drug-lord Panganathan Marimuthu was in possession of Magashula’s telephone recording when the Commissioner made the job offer. Marimuthu used the recording to blackmail Magashula so he could get away with tax compliance. Gordhan appointed Judge Zak Yacoob to investigate Magashula’s conduct and the outcome was adverse. Magashula was cornered to resign. Pursuant to his resignation, Gordhan appointed Pillay as Acting Sars Commissioner. This essentially meant that a man with only matric to his name was now in charge of a trillion rand state institution. Gordhan was at peace with this appointment and media didn’t make noise. What I find rather fascinating is that Magashula was blackmailed by Indian drug-lord (Marimuthu), an Indian Minister (Gordhan) appointed an Indian Judge (Yacoob) to investigate and he was replaced by an Indian Commissioner (Pillay).
After Jacob Zuma had appointed Gordhan as Finance Minister, Julius Malema questioned the rationale behind his appointment. Suddenly Sars went after Malema. His tax non-compliance was laid bare and assets attached. Adriano Mazzotti was exposed as a cigarette smuggler and tax dodger who donated R200 000 to enable EFF’s registration as a political party. Malema settled R1.8m with Sars and had to put up a fierce battle against Sars which was pushing for sequestration to force him out of parliament.
Between March 2014 and December 2015 Gordhan was Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister. This was at a time when most ANC-led municipalities were in distress and some dysfunctional. Most notably, it was at a time when municipalities were flouting Municipal Finance Management Act by investing money into VBS Mutual Bank. Nobody grilled Gordhan for his lack of critical oversight during his term as Cogta Minister. On the flip side, Ministers Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane are still being lambasted for shenanigans which took place in their previous departments of Social Development and Water Affairs respectively.
In March 2017 President Jacob Zuma dismissed Pravin Gordhan as Finance Minister, seven months later the controversial journalist Jacques Pauw launched an explosive book called “The President’s Keepers.” Inter alia, the book contained Zuma’s personal tax information which Sars Spokesperson Sandile Memela had said was obtained under questionable circumstances. Sars filed papers against Pauw in Western Cape High Court for Contravention of Tax Administration Act 2011 for disclosing confidential taxpayer information without a court order. Sars mysteriously withdrew litigation against Pauw. I couldn’t help but notice Jacques Pauw surreptitiously obtained Zuma’s confidential tax information from the same institution once headed by Gordhan and Pillay. It’s also worth noting that the book was launched seven months after the same Zuma had fired Gordhan as Finance Minister. Incidentally, Gordhan graced the launch of The President’s Keepers with his presence.
Gordhan’s daughter Anisha was a Non-Executive Director of several companies. Most conspicuously, she was Non-Executive Director of Vox Telecommunications which received tenders from Department of Agriculture while her father was a cabinet minister. Whether she benefitted personally or not, is immaterial. What matters is Anisha represented a private company which did business with government while her father was a minister.
In 2016 Gordhan told Parliament he never met any member of the Gupta family. In a bizarre turn of events, his leaked affidavit to the State Capture Commission revealed that he had actually met Rajesh and Ajay Gupta at two separate occasions. The media didn’t make much ado about his lying like they did with former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. The focus was not on the substance of the affidavit but, how it leaked to the public.
When news broke that Ranjeni Munusamy had lobbied EFF to support Gordhan as interim President when Zuma was recalled, he neither denounced nor distanced himself from the notorious journalist. When Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane announced she would be investigating Gordhan over Pillay’s pension saga, Munusamy questioned Public Protector’s timing. In this instance too, Gordhan never questioned why a balanced journalist was casting aspersions on the Public Protector’s intentions. The jury is out on whether Pravin Gordhan is a Saint that the media makes him out to be. In Pravin Gordhan’s famous words………please connect the dots.