What follows is a transcription of sections of video footage shot by eNCA of an interview conducted by political analyst Justice Malala with South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The interview formed part of the annual Cape Town Open Book Festival hosted by the Book Lounge.
Please note that because the early footage I used breaks up (they might have corrected it by now) I was only able to follow part way into the interview. I’ve transcribed what I sense are sections of the interview that I believe are particularly relevant to the current political discourse and/or turmoil surrounding the South African Finance Ministry, South African Revenue Services and the Hawks Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.
To view the actual footage to which the transcription speaks, please click on the accompanying link.
Excerpt one: ‘the rules of the (Finance Ministry) game … is to look after your money’
To view the video footage (20:00 – 21:00) please click here.
Pravin Gordhan (PG): … and all of these things require, that, whether, you’re a state-owned entity or a government department, these are the rules of the game, follow the rules of the game and if you follow the rules of the game then there is no need for any friction. And part of the rules of the game are, is, that we, part of our job is to look after your money. Part of our job is to stand before an audience like this and say your money is spent in an efficient way and in the public interest in the end of it all, and that’s the job we are trying to do. And if somebody becomes uncomfortable with us doing our job in terms of the letter of the law then it’s not our problem, it’s their problem. If we are reading the law incorrectly, if we are applying the law incorrectly then prove us wrong. But if we’re doing it the right way and that creates some discomfort on the other side, then they owe the public an explanation.
Excerpt two: ‘the extractors’ versus ‘very hardworking, honest people … who want to see public funds benefit 55 million people, not five’
To view the video footage (24:18 – 28:18) please click here.
PG: … I think what we do need in South Africa is to recognise that in most economic – all economic systems produce (unclear) – seeking phenomena of one kind or another … and, uh, clearly in our society as well you’ve got the very hardworking, honest people, and then you have what many books call these days, ‘extractors’, people who unfairly and improperly benefit from … Whether these people are really doing it in this kind of way is for somebody to make a judgement on, at some stage. But what is far more important is that there are many people in government – the majority I believe, uh, ad outside who want to see public funds to benefit 55 million people, not five. And that’s the real story. How do we ensure on a day-to-day basis that those of us who are responsible for public finances, makes sure that that money benefits 55 million people … and what we need to ensure is that public oriented bodies serve all the people in South Africa, and that’s where the phrase, ah, that is our job. Our job is to implement the constitution, to give effect to the legislation and make sure all South Africans benefit and create policy framework that enable them – to all say we have a stake in this economy and be able to say thank you (audio for the last section not clear).
Excerpt three: ‘Are you above the law?’
To view the video footage (28:19 – 31:20) please click here.
Justice Malala (JM): A lot of people are saying, well, Finance Minister Gordhan should subject himself to the law, and go to the Hawks, and like everybody else be questioned. Are you above the law?
PG: (coughs) No no, you can arrest me now if you want to but whatever have I done wrong? That’s the question. If you’re (unclear) saying (???) then why not subject myself? But above all, ah, then the public should know I’ve taken legal advice, you’ve heard (coughs), sorry about this cough, you’ve heard Judge Kriegler write about this and talk about this outside the Hawks office for example last week, ah, ah, that (pause) I’m not required to go there, firstly, secondly, all the questions have been asked, all the questions have been answered, thirdly, in every piece of correspondence, of any substance between my lawyers and the Hawks, and the prosecuting authority – there’s a line there which says, ‘Should you require any more information, please contact us’. They haven’t – yet. So they’re welcome. If there’s some piece of information they require they’re most welcome to ask, we’ll give them the information. I don’t have to be dragged through a cordon of press people or whatever it is just to show the world that the Hawks have got this chap here. This is what Judge Kriegler was talking about in his article(s) (??). So I’m not above the law, nobody should be above the law, and anyway that’s the wrong narrative. The real question here is Tom Moyani, who is the head of the South African Revenue Service laid a complaint some time in 2014 or thereabouts with the Hawks. Since then you’ve had a newspaper that carried an 18-month campaign against certain individuals. At the end of the 18 months’ period that newspaper had to apologise in one whole page. So what had it done? Because it didn’t have proof of the stuff it was accusing people of. Some of you might remember reading both the front pages and the page where there was the apology. Then the newspaper began to take a different tack. So as we sit today (pause) what’s the problem? (pause) Who’s accused of what? So there are people who have been stealing hundreds of millions of Rands and getting away with it and none of the people concerned in this particular matter have stolen a cent as far as I know. So why this disproportional treatment, and, and, what motivates it – and you’re (pointing to Justice Malala) not allowed any more questions (laughter), so, these are my questions (an interjection – unclear), so, ah, we’ll certainly co-operate with whatever legal obligations we have. And I’ve had good legal advice, and I’m not just doing this on a whim or fancy (unclear), I’m doing it in accordance with the interpretation of the law (applause).
Note: Judge Kriegler is a retired justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa