“This is a moment of truth for South Africa. I think people have to have a proper conversation about the state of the economy and not be distracted by the fights between [politicians],” Sunter said at a Deloitte State of the Nation event in Cape Town.
“I would like this case against Gordhan to go to court and be resolved in his favour hopefully but what I don’t want is extending it out and out with appeals and counter appeals. I would like to see it tested in court in November. The last thing you want is for it to be booted into touch next year. The case could also show that our judiciary is truly independent.”
While Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Friday that he would use every possible legal channel at his disposal to fight the fraud charges brought against him, scenario planner Clem Sunter is of the view that Gordhan should just head to court and get the matter over and done with as quickly as possible.
He would like to see what he terms an economic Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) taking place where the voices of entrepreneurs would be heard as well as that of big business.
In answer to a question whether President Jacob Zuma would actually fire Gordhan, Sunter said he really has no idea what Zuma is going to do.
“I think Zuma is trying to play things out for himself, but I think there is push back and that is why I would like to see this Gordhan issue finalized in court as soon as possible,” said Sunter.
“Zuma must know what would happen if he fires Gordhan – downgrades and more. So, I think Gordhan will stay, but I hope he gets this case done and dusted quickly. We don’t want to see this endless booting around of the can.”
Special treatment for Gordhan?
At the same event, political analyst Justice Malala said some people are asking why ANC Western Cape chair Marius Fransman was directed by national officials to step down pending the finalisation of an investigation (on sexual assault) against him in January, but Gordhan is not similarly asked to step down pending the probe he is involved in.
“Some people are asking what makes Gordhan special,” said Malala.
In his view the possibility of a Cabinet reshuffle has now increased.
“The narrative is building about ‘why some comrades have to step down’ – like Fransman – and not Gordhan,” said Malala.
“I don’t think Zuma will fire Gordhan, but I think more voices in the ANC are saying Gordhan must go and first sort out his issues.”
According to Malala there are rumours that should Gordhan be “fired”, he would be replaced by Eskom CEO Brian Molefe.
“Remember, good can come of a crisis. For instance, it was good that Gordhan was returned when former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was fired,” said Malala.
“Also, when Nene was fired it brought cooperation between business, labour and government pulling together early in 2016. The problem is, however, that SA keeps on being hit by confidence draining events like the summons of Gordhan this week. Until Tuesday I thought SA could pull through.”
Malala emphasised how important it is to realise the impact of negative sentiment on the country.
“After Gordhan’s recent meetings in New York we all said a downgrade now won’t happen, but now – after this week’s events – we don’t know who will drive the economic plan any more,” said Malala.
“That is why SA needs to make sure our institutions continue to be as brilliant as they are and not like institutions like the Hawks. Ask yourself: what is going on at this institution? These are the ones that will bring SA down, but fortunately there are other institutions – like the Independent Electoral Commission that have been pulling SA up too.”