Organised business formations indicated on Monday that they would still participate in a November 2 civil-society protest rally in support of the Constitution, despite the announcement by National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams that he was withdrawing dubious fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
In a joint statement, Business Unity South Africa, Business Leadership South Africa and the CEO Initiative welcome the withdrawal of the charges against Gordhan, and former South African Revenue Service officials Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula. However, they said that the decision to drop charges did not alter the decision of business leaders and organised business to participate in a protest action scheduled for Pretoria on Wednesday.
The organisations described the planned event as “historic”, arguing that, for the first time in the 22-year history of South Africa’s democracy, business would join with civil society, faith-based organisations, labour and thousands of citizens to express their “belief in our Constitution and a future for our society that it envisages”.
The protests for part of the Save South Africa campaign, formed recently with the intention of “holding government leaders accountable to the Constitution and the values they have pledged to uphold as representatives of the people”.
Earlier the campaign urged all those “committed to social justice, whatever their political or ideological beliefs”, to participate in the November 2 even, as well as other civic actions against corruption, mismanagement and political intrigue.
In a recent CEO Initiative Pledge, over 80 business leaders called for the charges against Gordhan to be dropped, arguing that they were “without factual or legal foundation and were manifestly not in the public interest”.
In a statement on Monday, the business groupings argued that the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to withdraw the charges was a validation of its view.
“The independence and stability of our state institutions are an inviolable bedrock of both our social compact and the functioning of our economy. It is our collective duty and paramount responsibility as citizens and all sectors of society to unite to protect these institutions. And it is core to our fight to maintain our investment grade rating,” the business statement read.
Separately, the Banking Association South Africa (Basa) said that, while it was relieved that the NPA has made, “belatedly, the correct decision”, much damage had been done. “The economic impact immediately following the decision to lay charges was very negative and, although it has improved since, we again sent out a message that there are attempts at political influence on our critical institutions.”
Basa MD Cas Coovadia described the conduct of the NPA and the Hawks as “extremely problematic” and described the case against Gordhan as one of “political persecution”.
“The fight must continue against capture and corruption,” Coovadia said, while urging all sectors of society to continue to demonstrate their support for the Minister and confidence in his leadership in executing his duties.
Meanwhile, the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry added that the charges against the Finance Minister had not only occupied the psyche of the public and international markets, but had “caused unnecessary uncertainty and disruption”.
The statements by the various business organisation also served to further isolate the Black Business Council (BBC), whose newly elected head of policy, Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi, recently slammed the CEO Initiative Pledge, which was endorsed by former BBC CEO Mohale Ralebitso. Ralebitso announced his resignation from the BBC only days after the Pledge appeared in newspaper advertisements.
Speaking to Business Times, Manyi said there was “a discrepancy between the BBC position and that pledge”.