In South Africa CEOs call for Gordhan charges to be dropped

The corporate leaders joined opposition parties, analysts, who have publicly expressed support for Gordhan.

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South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan poses for a photograph in Pretoria, after speaking via video link to a Thomson Reuters investment conference in Cape Town South Africa play South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan poses for a photograph in Pretoria, after speaking via video link to a Thomson Reuters investment conference in Cape Town South Africa, October 14,2016. (REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko)
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At least 80 heads of top South African firms including Anglo American, Barclays Africa Group and Naspers want fraud charges against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to be dropped.

The top executives of mostly-listed firms in Africa's most industrialised country - ranging from mining, media, retail and banking - said in a newspaper advertisement on Sunday that political wrangling was damaging an already stalling economy at a time the country faced a sovereign credit downgrade.

"We stand as one for the rule of law and against the decision to prosecute the Minister of Finance on charges that are, according to the preponderance of expert legal opinion, without factual or legal foundation," they declared.

The charges say Gordhan, while running the tax agency, fraudulently approved early retirement for a deputy commissioner and re-hired him as a consultant, costing the tax agency around 1.1 million rand ($79,000).

The minister has dismissed the accusations as frivolous and politically motivated.

Analysts and supporters of Gordhan, whose first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 2, argue that the charges could be a ploy by President Jacob Zuma allies to discredit him.

The president has said he is not in conflict with Gordhan and the country's top prosecutor has denied that the charges are politically motivated. Gordhan said last week his relations with Zuma were very good.

The corporate leaders joined opposition parties, analysts, and top leaders inside the ruling African National Congress, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who have publicly expressed support for Gordhan.

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