Gordhan Sees No Need for Probe of South African Banks

  • Companies unhappy with lenders have recourse through courts
  • Minister says his treatment by police is ‘disproportional’

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said his ministry sees no need for a judicial inquiry into banking oversight bodies being considered by the cabinet, after lenders cut ties to the Gupta family, who’re friends of President Jacob Zuma.

The country’s courts offer recourse to companies unhappy with banks, Gordhan told the Cape Town book festival on Thursday. Last week, the presidency repudiated Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane after he said the cabinet had decided to authorize the probe.

“My view is that where we sit as the finance ministry a judicial commission doesn’t prove anything,” Gordhan said. “If there are serious complaints there is the court system and if that doesn’t work there are institutional mechanisms to resolve them.”

Zwane’s comments came amid increasing tensions between Zuma’s government and the Treasury and the central bank. Zuma has dismissed Gordhan’s request to fire the nation’s tax chief for insubordination and delayed action on his demands for the appointment of a new board at the state-owned airline. Gordhan is under investigation by a special police unit known as the Hawks for setting up an allegedly illicit surveillance unit when he led the tax agency.

‘Disproportional Treatment’

Gordhan said that he was being subjected to “disproportional treatment” by the Hawks while people who steal millions of rand were getting away with it. Last month he said he wouldn’t comply with the Hawks’ instruction to report to its offices for questioning because his lawyers advised him he wasn’t obliged to do so.

“Nobody is above the law. But what have I done wrong? All the questions have been asked and all the questions have been answered,” he said. “In every piece of correspondence of any substance between my lawyers and the prosecutors and the Hawks, there is a line that says ‘should you require any more information you are happy to contact us.’ They have not contacted us.”

Asked whether he expected to present the next budget in February, Gordhan said he served at the pleasure of the president who has the discretion to change his cabinet.

(A previous version of this story corrected the mineral resources minister’s first name.)

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