Pravin Gordhan 2008


Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan was born on 12 April 1949 and grew up in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal. After attending Sastri College he obtained a Bachelor of Pharmacy from the University of Durban-Westville and completed his postgraduate studies in Human Resource Development. He also completed a postgraduate diploma in Economics at the London School of Economics.

During the apartheid years Pravin Gordhan played a prominent role as an anti-apartheid activist. He was an executive member of the Natal Indian Congress between 1974 and 1990, secretary and later chair of the Durban Housing Committee. Between 1977 and 1990, he was an active member of the ANC/SACP underground movement. Involved in Mkhonto Wesizwe’s Operation Vula, he was tortured and detained for four months.  Mr Pravin chaired Codesa in 1992, and the following year he co-chaired the Transitional Executive Council as well as the Multi-Party Negotiation Process. He became a member of the first democratic Parliament in 1994 and kept the position until 1998. He served on the Council of the University of Durban-Westville from 1995 to 1997 and he chaired the World Customs Organisation from 2000 to 2006.

He was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) in Pretoria in March 1998 after being deployed from parliament as part of government’s drive to transform the public service. In November 1999, he became Commissioner of SARS. His foremost task was to transform South Africa’s customs and revenue administration. He brought about significant improvements in the performance of the organisation, such as a marked improvement in revenue collections, radical tax policy changes, a visible enhancement of the tax and customs compliance culture, enhanced status and capacity of the customs component of SARS, a risk management approach to compliance, an all-encompassing transformation and a modernisation programme.

He has pro-actively developed mechanisms to fight corruption within SARS and outside the organisation with the stakeholders and trade community that SARS services. He has also ensured that South African Customs has become a key player in the drive towards regional customs initiatives. His administration’s profile in South Africa has been growing steadily, and its value to the South African economy is openly acknowledged by the public, business and government leaders alike. Commissioner Gordhan has represented South Africa in many international undertakings, including several peacekeeping missions, as chairperson of the Customs Workshop for the Second Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in 2001, and is often called upon to make presentations at tax seminars and customs conferences.

Numerous honorary awards have been bestowed on him, including Commander of Belgium’s Order of the Crown, in recognition of his achievements in promoting international and domestic Customs integrity. He was the recipient of UNISA’s Honorary Award in Excellence in 2003 for the leading role he has played in the transformation of the South African customs and revenue administration since November 1999. In 2004 President Thabo Mbeki extended Commissioner Gordhan’s contract for another five years.

Mr Pravin Gordhan is recognised for turning a stagnant institution into a professional operation serving the public of South Africa.  He has brought about significant improvements in the performance of the South African Revenue Service through transformation.

In recognition of his substantial contribution to South African society by transforming the administration of the South African Customs and Revenue Service into a strategic governmental institution, it is an honour for NMMU to confer the degree of Doctor of Commerce (Honoris Causa) on PRAVIN JAMNADAS GORDHAN.