Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday rejected accusations that he misused public money to set up an investigative unit when he led the SA Revenue Service (Sars).
“Neither myself or many of the people who are accused of all sorts of things have ever stolen one cent of public money,” Gordhan said at an event in Johannesburg. “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about, but if they want to do anything, we have good courts in South Africa.”
The Sunday Times reported last month that Gordhan and other former senior tax officials were at risk of being arrested on espionage charges for helping establish a “rogue” investigative unit when he headed the revenue service. The National Prosecuting Authority denied the report.
Gordhan, 67, took over as finance minister, a post he held from 2009 to 2014, in December after President Jacob Zuma was forced to remove David van Rooyen four days after his appointment because of protests from members of the ANC and the business community. While Zuma has since said that Van Rooyen is the most qualified person for the position, Gordhan said he has the political backing to do his job.
“I’m still in the job and I think next week I’ll be in the job as well,” he said.
While South Africa was spared a downgrade to junk by two credit-rating companies in the last week, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings warned they could still cut the country’s debt assessment if the economy doesn’t recover. Gordhan has met with business and labour leaders and investors since February to come up with measures to boost growth and improve sentiment.
The economy contracted by an annualised 1.2% in the three months through March and will probably expand at the slowest pace this year since a 2009 recession, according to SA Reserve Bank estimates.
Ratings companies now want to see milestones of what is being achieved and not only plans, Gordhan said.