Is Pravin Gordhan under attack as a victim?

Our discourse is teetering on precarious grounds where the personality cult – worship of individuals – defines us in blindness of subjectivity.


J. McWhorter defines victimology in drawing a distinction between a constructive approach to victimhood as opposed to claiming victimhood “where it barely if at all exists”. He asserts, “approaching victimhood constructively will naturally include calling attention to it, and it is healthy. However, much more often in modern black American life, victimhood is simply called attention to where it barely exists if at all. Most importantly, all too often this is not done to forge a solution, but to foster and nurture an unfocused brand of resentment and sense of alienation from the mainstream. This is victimology.”


Last week Pravin Gordhan in his second coming as Finance Minister became the overnight hero for having put together a budget that articulates a future that would set us on cause to stymie the threats of junk status and solving our economic woes. I am one of those who listened to every word applauded the budget speech as a concerned citizen.


This budget speech attests indeed the fulcrum of intense juggling, ingenuity, crafting and foresight fueled by an undeniable conviction that South Africa can be resilient, as poignantly articulated by Gordhan.


However since our discourse is so pummeled with a need for individual messiahs, Pravin Gordhan became for some an overnight messiah the answer to all SA economic woes. The twist in this is that whilst he became the economic messiah he was declared immediately an endangered species that warrants defense, rallying around, protection and absolved to be questioned. We not sure from whom or for what reason?


Gradually our minds were refreshed of a nagging old story of a claimed ‘rogue unit’ operative during his tenure as SARS Commissioner in another era. We again heard of a long standing Hawks investigation into what is considered the existence of a ‘rogue unit’ established to engage in plausible illegitimate activities of probable intelligence surveillance on certain sectors and individuals of society with claimed political overtures. Apparently this investigation is ongoing and was first made public in May 2015. It is important to note that at the time of it being made public Pravin Gordhan was not the minister of finance but of CoGTA.


No soon did the news break on this when we heard a crossbreed of voices some from very opportunistic clergy, others purely ill-informed and yet others from the conspiracy worlds of political gerrymandering drawing lines of a Minister versus a President testosterone contest. Underscoring a victimhood and villain status as defined landscape.


The chorus to defend Gordhan comes conflated if not convulsed with claims of he is the bastion of economic defense and the victim of an orchestrated political smear campaign of individuals who are as it is claimed enemies of the South African economic success project.


We read of the fact that the Hawks sent a letter to Gordhan four days before the budget speech to ask him to help its investigation in answering some pertinent questions. I am not sure if the timing for the questions are was well considered, perhaps the Hawks can explain why four days before the budget speech. Yet we must draw a distinction between the timing and the actual veracity of the questions, it appears there is no distinction in the minds of some.


Naturally Gordhan must be saluted for not becoming emotional in responding or mentioning this prior to his important speech. Yet that in itself does not naturally translate to him being exonerated to respond to the questions as requested by the Hawks.

It’s perhaps time we unpack the psyche of those who in this day have become proverbial martyrs-willing-to-die for Gordhan as the accepted economic messiah.


1. The first error those who uncritically defend Gordhan make is they disavow the then Commissioner of SARS the obligatory responsibility to account for claims legitimate or illegitimate of what potentially took place under his watch and during his tenure.

2. The second error those who see the minister as under attack make is that they rush to conclude the minister a victim of a political plot.

3. Thirdly those who defend the minister have determined devoid of objectivity the president the opposite of the minister. A comparison pliable in their concave understanding of evil and good.

4. In the fourth instance, they have unilaterally declared Gordhan the economic savior of a crippled economy and bestowed on him the sole right and mandate to steer SA out of this economic abyss that teeters on junk status condemnation from the Western world rating agencies. Off course they conveniently forget the minister in his previous tenure did not prove this messiah, but in a season of predetermined villains and victims he is a natural victim, and therefore has earned the right not to answer another constitutional organ of State law enforcement.

5. In the fifth instance Gordhan himself pleads victimhood and castigates those who want him to answer these questions as having not SA’ s interest at heart. Thus instead of answering the questions he pleads a victimhood in the name of a SA economy, because he found that there are voices who are willing to lay down their lives for him in an uncritical sense. Equally his entourage of willing martyrs does not pause to ask but Minister on the basis of what do you conclude this?

6. The vocal defenders of Gordhan sweep us all up in the rhetoric of fear of an imminent junk status threat to be exacted. Out of this fear of junk status these grope into thin air declaring us economically dead, conveniently forgetting the country that closest resembles us in most facets as developing economy, Brazil had just been handed their love-letter of junk status by the same rating agencies.

7. The martyrs for Gordhan simply do not ask the minister what he means when he says “there are problems with SARS and we will in a few weeks sort this out and we will report back”. We not sure if these problems are inherent historical, new system based or personality driven. We not sure if its leadership based or relational based.

8. The crossbreed of defenders of a Gordhan as a personality refuses to conclude that SA will have a junk status whether Thomas Picketty is the finance minister or not. It has little to do with Gordhan as a person but there is a perhaps a political agenda with downgrading developing economies, particularly with the emergence of BRICS block. The late Chris Hani it is claimed had access to a document in which it was said, ” South Africa was a country not to be allowed to prosper, for if it does it would ignite the whole of dark Africa…”

9. Perhaps the gravest error those who blindly defend Gordhan make is to reduce the Hawks to a junk status as a law-enforcing agency. Why would they be so oblivious to do that? Does this not constitute an obstruction of justice on the part of those who denies the Hawks to do their work?

10. Shall we venture to deduce that the defenders of Gordhan in their personal, collective and dreamt up anger is led to conclude it is correct to defend Gordhan because he is the new opposite of Zuma. The Zuma they all would like to see recalled in settling of scores of a 2008 Mbeki recall (a grave  mistake the ANC is still paying for ) or the Zuma they want to see impeached and behind bars as the criminal they have tried him in the courts of public opinion to be.

11. Among those who say hands of Gordhan are those who in emotional blackmail attempt demanding the president to intervene, as if they will not tomorrow charge him again for violating his constitutional circumference.

12. The martyrs fail to question the logic of a claim of a minister under attack. They dare not to question the potentially concocted make belief reality of a need to defend a finance minister. Neither do they find celebration of the personality cult worship on messianic claim of economic savior of an individual deplorable and completely unsustainable.

13. Lastly the defenders of Gordhan have found Nene’s replacement not in doing the work but what they call opposing Zuma. The logic of this is not questioned but it’s advanced with a zest that rivals support for your favorite sports team.

I thank the president, cabinet and the finance ministry and all those who worked tirelessly in preparing for the 2016-2017 budget speech. Undeniably the product of creativity developed under strenuous circumstances of real economic challenge, yet the budget speech is over. What is left to do is implementing the budget studiously.


Yet this gives the minister opportunity to take us all into his confidence to respond to the 27 questions regardless how they may be legally structured, there is only one side to truth, we as South Africans desire to move on because we have confidence in our minister.


This victim – villain crafted status in which unrelated issues are drawn together in need to defend our new or should I say not so new economic Saviour simply does not help but polarize us when we ought to work together to rescue our economy. Is the delaying of the answering of these questions not inadvertently contributing to us being in a proverbial hung parliament with an ever-approaching guillotine of junk status threat? Let the Hawks do what they always do without fear or favour. None of us are above the law and the law must take its course if we portend to be good citizens.


For now no one has to die for Gordhan because he is under no attack. Our honorable minister  must just answer the questions to the best of his honest mind. We value each of our ministers equally as servants and custodians of our collective best interest, unfortunately there are no messiahs among them unless they are all messiahs, Gordhan cannot in convenience be made one.


Clyde N.S. Ramalaine