President Jacob Zuma has ordered Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to return from an investor roadshow in the UK, saying the trip was ‘unauthorised’.
And the second leg of the roadshow – to the US – to be led by Gordhan’s deputy Mcebisi Jonas, has been called off following instructions from the president. Jonas was set to leave for the US tonight.
“President Jacob Zuma has instructed the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas to cancel the international investment promotion roadshow to the United Kingdom and the United States and return to South Africa immediately,” The Presidency said in a one-line statement.
Business Day has been informed that the cancellation of the roadshow was communicated in a letter written by Treasury DG Lungisa Fuzile.
The rand weakened back to R12.58/$ at 11:20am as the news broke. Before the shock news, the rand looked set to go under R12.30/$.
Gordhan’s future as finance minister has been in question since he replaced Des van Rooyen in December 2015, and the threat of arrest has persistently hung over him.
In October 2016, the NPA said it was investigating him for fraud but later dropped those charges.
Earlier in 2016, he was investigated by the Hawks over allegations of a rogue unit at SARS, and there was talk of his imminent arrest.
President Jacob Zuma was reported to have said early last month that Treasury was standing in the way of transformation.
A source told Business Day that the issue that emerged strongly at a three-day meeting of the ANC was that SA was a developmental state and Zuma argued that developmental programmes and projects had to be prioritised.
A “political package” was put together by the ANC to bring about a “radical economic transformation”, which relates to the structure of the economy and to ownership,” the source said.
Gordhan has been instrumental in SA’s efforts to stave off rating downgrades by international credit agencies. SA has spent the past year-and-a-half on the brink of a downgrade to junk status, and a review by Moody’s is due on Friday next week.
Gordhan is also embroiled in a court battle with Oakbay Investments, a company owned by Zuma’s family friends, the Guptas.
Gordhan approached the High Court for a declaratory order confirming he cannot intervene in a dispute between Oakbay Investments and banks that have closed the family’s accounts.
The finance minister has also been outspoken about the social grants fiasco, calling Net1 CEO Serge Belamant “extremely arrogant and disrespectful to government”, over his attempts to force government to extend an illegal contract to pay grants to Net1 subsidiary CPS on the company’s terms.
– TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE