Bishop Abel Gabuza, the chairperson of SACBC Justice and Peace Commission, has cautioned that the current uncertainties around the future of the finance minister and the treasury are not in the interest of the poorest of the poor.
“In the context of the current fragile economy, and given the enormous hardships that the poor are already facing in our country, it is ethically improper of our political leaders to create uncertainties around the treasury and diminish the country’s ability to avert a credit-rating downgrade that would hurt the poor. That is why we are calling on the presidency and the parliament to do more to intervene in the current crisis around the treasury.”
A group of business leaders and academics made similar calls last week.
But President Zuma said on Thursday that, while he has confidence in the finance minister, he could not bring a halt to the probe even if it was negatively affecting the economy.
Bishop Gabuza has however insisted that the President can and should do more.
“We ask the president to intervene in the current impasse in a manner that assures the country that the probe against the finance minister is not politically motivated.”
He added: “As there is a lot at stake for the economy and the poor, we ask the president to offer the country a greater level of assurance that the Hawks’ probe against the finance minister was not initiated as a part of a broader ploy to remove the finance minister from office and weaken treasury’s capacity to fight tender corruption and inefficient governance of state owned enterprises.”
“The statement that the presidency issued last week has failed to offer such a high level of assurance. More needs to be done.”
Gordham is accused for allegedly breaking anti-spying laws by setting up an unauthorized unit at the South African Revenue Service, or SARS, and facilitating a generous early-retirement package for the unit’s leader.
Analysts have argued that the probe of the finance minister is politically motivated and is designed to justify his removal from his post in a broader cabinet reshuffle.
They have also argued that the charges mentioned in the police summons to the finance minister have no basis in facts and in law.
Commenting on this development, Bishop Gabuza has said that “we continue to affirm and emphasize that all South Africans, including the finance ministers, are not above the law.”
At the same time, while, as Church leaders, we do not have the competence to determine the merits and demerits of the alleged criminal case against the finance minister, we strongly caution our political leaders against the use of state agencies and judicial processes to fight their factional battles and advance their narrow interests, without regard to its consequences on the economy and the poor.”
The police summons to Gordhan came just days after the government handed oversight of South Africa’s state-owned enterprises, including the national airline (SAA) and energy company (Eskom), to the president.
This move may make it harder for Gordhan to complete the promised overhaul of the state owned enterprises, which is a part of a broader plan to control government spending and avert a credit-rating downgrade.
One key policy disagreement between the treasury and the presidency has been a plan to build a fleet of nuclear power plants, estimated to cost around $60 billion.
“We wish to state without reserve that we support the finance minister and the treasury in their efforts to clean up tender irregularities and to end inefficient governance of the state owned enterprises, which is a part of a broader plan to avert a credit-rating downgrade. We also support him in his insistence on the need to act in a fiscally responsible manner in relation to the nuclear power plants.” Says Bishop Gabuza.