31/03/2017 15:15 SAST | Updated 31/03/2017 17:20 SAST

Gordhan Shares 'Scary Facts' With Activists In Closed-Door Meeting

The sacked minister of finance said he is worried what might happen with the management of civil servants' pensions.

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
South Africa's outgoing Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, centre, looks on after speaking to supporters outside his offices in Pretoria, South Africa, March 31, 2017.

By lunch-time on Friday, neither President Jacob Zuma nor his aides had contacted Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan or his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, to tell them they were fired.

They heard it on television at 23 minutes after midnight early on Friday March 31, confirmed two aides who said the two were shocked by the manner of their axing.

Prior to packing up their desks on Friday afternoon, Gordhan, Jonas and senior National Treasury staff were locked in meetings with leaders of civil society organisation Save South Africa, including Sipho Pityana, Mark Heywood and Zwelinzima Vavi.

Gordhan laid out some "scary" facts about what could happen at the pension fund administrator, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), and what was happening at the Department of Water and Sanitation, said activists who attended the meeting.

While that meeting was taking place, Treasury Director General Lungisa Fuzile was briefing incoming Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba off-site because of the four-hour long protests outside Treasury headquarters. An official said Gordhan was likely to stay on as an Member of Parliament for the African National Congress (ANC) but said that Jonas wanted to quit. Both men want to be in Parliament for a likely no-confidence vote in Zuma, said an aide who was part of all meetings held from last night to this morning.

Earlier, Vavi implored Treasury staff to stay in their jobs to prevent the looting of the state's coffers or to blow the whistle on any dodgy or big spending deals which may be pushed through.

Huffington Post South Africa spoke to 10 Treasury staff who said they were "sad", "shocked", "gutted" and "worried". All said they were determined to stay.

Staff lined the Treasury walls at 40 Church Square with extracts from the Public Finance Management Act and the Constitution on posters. The extracts set out the independence of the Treasury and lay out good governance processes for the spending of public funds.

It has been a tumultuous week for Gordhan, who landed in London on Monday to a text message from the director general in the presidency, Cassius Lubisi. In what aides describe as a long and officious text message, Gordhan was instructed to return.

Gordhan's mood on Friday reverted from that of slightly stern finance minister to activist. He told assembled staff to "organise" and said the only way to secure democracy was through mass action. He was obstreperous with ANN7, the television channel owned by the Gupta family and which has run a Fox Television-like campaign against Gordhan, Jonas and Treasury.

Both he and Jonas seemed light-hearted and perhaps relieved that the axe they have lived under for almost 16 months had finally fallen.

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