POLITICS

'For God's Sakes People!' SACP's Solly Mapaila Rubbishes Operation Checkmate Claims Against Pravin Gordhan

Mapaila pointed out Gordhan has been involved in the most sensitive operations during the struggle.

30/03/2017 12:47 SAST | Updated 30/03/2017 20:37 SAST
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.

The SACP has pooh-poohed the so-called "Operation Checkmate" document that reportedly justified President Jacob Zuma's shock recall of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas from an international investment roadshow.

The move, on Monday, triggered panic in South Africa and the markets with fresh concerns over an imminent Cabinet reshuffle and Gordhan and Jonas getting the chop.

Speaking at a briefing on Thursday morning at SACP headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, Mapaila offered a rousing defence for Gordhan and his deputy, closing off a wide-ranging press briefing.

"The removal has nothing to do with his performance as minister -- it has to do with some shoddy intelligence report that builds suspicion on the basis of not him wanting to serve the country," said Mapaila, who praised Gordhan's record in running his department.

He went on to exclaim: "For God's sake people, who on earth can believe that a man who participated in the highest form of the revolutionary armed struggle... can simply sell out his own country?"

The report claimed that Gordhan and Jonas planned to meet foreign businesses to discredit Zuma and that was the reason for their recall from the overseas trip, according to reports.

Mapaila pointed out that Gordhan had participated in "Operation Vula" during the struggle, "a very sensitive project that had life and death dimensions". He said he found it difficult to believe that he would now sell out his country.

"With PG I don't believe that," he said, referring to Gordhan by his initials. "With Mcebisi I don't believe that. I have a personal belief, and this perspective is shared by many in the Communist Party, that these comrades have served our movement with absolute distinction. They deserve our support and they should not be harassed."

Curious charges hung over Gordhan's head for months, until they were finally dropped in October last year, leading to rumours that the allegations were trumped up to be used by Zuma as a premise for sacking the finance minister.

Mapaila also referenced Zuma loyalist and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi's latest salvo on Gordhan.

"Faith Muthambi writes something to the extent that we should leave the president to act as he pleases and that Gordhan is not a super minister. We just want him to be a good minister, he should not be a super minister. He must do well and run his department well and so far we are confident he has been doing that."

"If there are issues and concerns about his inability to run that department, that can be engaged. But egos aside, people must work together."

Mapaila had high praise for Gordhan's work record. "Comrade Pravin has run that ministry with absolute cleanliness. That is what has impressed us: it is one of the best-run departments. Other ministries should be emulating it. For us as the SACP governance, and clean governance in particular, has become a critical pillar of the national democratic revolution at this current period."

The SACP held the briefing to set the record straight and publicly announce they were told about the looming reshuffle by Zuma, and Gordhan and Mcebisi's axing, but that they did not agree with it.

The party also referenced its upcoming national imbizo "within this context" and announced that it would be held on April 22-24. Mapaila extended an invitation "to all progressive organisations both political and non-political". The veterans of the movement were specifically mentioned.

The imbizo could be one of many moves that are seeing various forces come together in increasing opposition to Zuma following a pivotal moment of resistance at the funeral of struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada on Wednesday.

Rumours that Zuma was about to reshuffle his Cabinet, specifically removing Gordhan from his post, have being doing the rounds for well over a year.

But the speculation reached fever pitch on Monday when Zuma instructed Gordhan to return home from an investor roadshow.