'Of course, you are racist. You are,' Jackson Mthembu tells EFF MPs

Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu.
Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

Minister Jackson Mthembu has accused the EFF of being racist towards South Africans of Indian origin.

Mthembu, the minister in the presidency responsible for planning, monitoring and evaluation, deviated from his prepared speech in the National Assembly on Wednesday to defend public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, who has been under attack from the EFF for months for his role in the establishment of the so-called rogue unit at SA Revenue Services.

Members of the EFF also charged at Gordhan while he tried to present his budget vote speech last week.

“Why do the EFF pursue Gordhan so much? Let's just try and answer this question,” said Mthembu. 

“Why this anarchic pursuit of this stalwart of our liberation movement?"

He added: “One reason that we want to put is that there is a deep-seated hatred for our Indian compatriots among this."

After being heckled by EFF MPs, Mthembu said: "Of course, you are racist. You are.”

Mthembu characterised the EFF's conduct towards Gordhan last week as disrespectful, rude and uncouth.

He said Gordhan's sin was the work he was doing in cleaning up state-owned entities.

“I can assure you that in his attempts to clean the state-owned entities, he stepped on some corrupt toes of EFF cronies”.

Mthembu also accused the EFF of trying to deviate from their friends who are dealing in illicit cigarettes and who regularly fund the party, and whom he said were being pursued by the tax collecting agencies.

“Now Pravin becomes a scapegoat,” he added.

Earlier in the debate, EFF leader Julius Malema vowed to continue the approach against Gordhan.

“He needs to know that, unlike you who are traumatised by him, we are not scared of him. We are going to take him head on, toe-to-toe and there is none of you who can tell us how we must take on Jamnadas,” said Malema in a fiery speech.

He criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa for not acting against Gordhan, even after being presented “with hard core evidence of the most dangerous activities of Honourable Jamnadas”.

Jamnadas is Gordhan's second name.

Malema said the public protector had confirmed the existence of an unlawful, illegal and extremely dangerous intelligence unit that was established by Gordhan in his previous job as SARS commissioner.

“Some of the people who worked for this unit are coming out into the public to speak of its illegal activities.

“The Rogue Unit and its political principals are primarily at the helm of a media cabal and faction whose role is to lynch anyone who exposes or speaks against the formation of the unit and its illegal activities,” he added.

Malema, who was previously in hot water with SARS over his tax affairs, continued: “I became a victim of this unit. I went to them in 2010, I met Oupa Magashule, I met Irvin Pillay, I met Johan van Loggerenberg. I gave them the document which contained all of this information. I left and all my problems started."

Malema said the reality was that the “rogue unit” was not established with the directive of any sitting president and did not report to him, and this meant whoever they reported to was as powerful, if not more, than a sitting president.

He accused Gordhan of engaging in illegal activities to destroy the image of those he did not favour.

“And it’s not us, there was a report compiled about the cabal and Jamandas's name was there, doing exactly what they are doing now; to destroy and character assassinate those they disagree with,” he added.


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