NEWS

Pravin Gordhan Heckled By Students Who Demand To Know: 'Who Owns SA Today?'

The former finance minister and his deputy were heckled by students over issues of ownership.

27/07/2017 06:05 SAST | Updated 27/07/2017 06:05 SAST
Getty Images
Finance finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

A lecture addressed by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his former deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, ended in a ruckus when students lashed out, demanding answers on concentration of ownership and white monopoly capital.

The lecture, which focused on state capture and transformation, was held at the University of Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon.

The students, some from the Economic Freedom Fighters' student command, and others dressed in African National Congress regalia, heckled Gordhan throughout his speech. Although representing contesting parties, the students brought the lecture to an abrupt close by chanting loudly over the speaker's voice.

It seemed the growing animosity was due to the question session being cut short due to time constraints as well as questions going unanswered. Or, not being answered to the satisfaction of the student groups.

One EFF student representative began the onslaught on Gordhan, demanding answers on ownership of the economy.

"Only one side of the narrative has been advanced... We know we never went to exile, we never formed the armed struggle, we can't come to South Africans today and tell them their enemy is colourless. Who has our things, who has the land today, who controls the JSE today?" the student asked, directing his question to Gordhan.

Another student demanded to know why both Gordhan and Jonas were only speaking out on issues of state capture, economic transformation and the concentration of ownership now. She asked if it was only because the pair were sacked.

'Where's the solutions?'
But Gordhan remained steadfast in front of the growingly adverse crowd.

"Leaders must have the humility to say that from time to time we are going to make mistakes. For example, we opened up parts of our economy after 1994 too soon, without ensuring we restructure those parts of the economy so they can survive the open competition," Gordhan said.

"We closed nursing colleges and teacher training colleges. For that generation that made those mistakes, I apologise," he said.

But Gordhan hit back.

"When we were your age and students as well, we also had vibrancy, in fact far greater vibrancy than you show," he said.

"You had your turn, democracy also means hear the other side. I didn't interrupt you, hear me now... The question and the challenge for you is whether you have the will and the creativity and the commitment to making sure you join us in ending corruption in South Africa."

He told students to look back on previous budget speeches where him, and other ministers, were outspoken on their views against corruption.

"Accountability comes about when citizens are aware of what is going on. When citizens are active about what they have displeasures about, when they can call political parties and leaders out and not just believe in narratives which are intended to actually mask the real issue," he said.

"We all agree that the South African economy is highly concentrated, that key parts of the economy are historically and currently controlled by the white part of our population."

He said in restructuring the economy, South Africa needs to have the demographics of the country represented in the ownership and management.

"The question is how do you get there in a way which you don't destroy the economy. We've got to come up with solutions, not slogans. We are good on policies but weak on implementation. The real question is apart from populist mobilisation, where's the solutions?"