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ANC needs to close the Zuma series or be the final victim

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Yet another real life political story hit South African book shelves last week in the Zuma horror series, with state capture as central theme. The ANC might become the final victim.

Shortly on the heels of Jacques Pauw’s The President’s keepers, former National Treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile’s story of the assault on the Treasury in December 2015, with the appointment of Des van Rooyen as Minister of Finance, is being told in another book Enemy of the people by Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit.

It gives a startling account of the confusion, disruption, and the brazen attituded with which Van Rooyen’s advisers arrived at the ministry after it was announced that he was replacing the widely respected and competent Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister.

Fuzile tells of a meeting the day before the announcement which left him with “with the clear impression that political considerations superseded the technical, economic considerations.”

After the outcry that followed and the return of Pravin Gordhan (PG) to the ministry, Fuzile told the authors of the book: “It was amazing. You could see PG’s prowess, he was out of the business for 18 months but he’s an old hand. The currency didn’t recover as we had hoped, and he was worried about it, but we decided to ensure that things were fixed by February. We were happy to get PG back. He was an old hand, a pro, who thrived under these sorts of challenges. But we knew we weren’t going to have a moment’s peace or stability.”

However, Zuma was not done with his onslaught, and in March this year Gordhan was fired and known Zuma supporter Malusi Gigaba appointed.

It is too early to judge the new minister of finance fully, but clearly Zuma has decided to take matters into his own hands as far as the national fiscus is concerned. He created almost a shadow budget unit in his office.

Three weeks ago, Minister Gigaba in his medium-term budget indicated that the country cannot afford a nuclear built power programme, just to be followed the President and the Minister of Energy, David Mahlobo let it be known that they are forcing proceeding with the plan.

Then, last week it came to light that President Zuma are preparing to announce a fee free higher education dispensation, coinciding with the news of the resignation of the Treasury’s respected head of budgeting, Michael Sachs. He is the third senior

Treasury official to leave since Pravin Gordhan’s departure and reports had it that he resigned as a result of interference in the budgeting process by the presidency.

Implications

Seán Mfundza Muller, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Johannesburg in an article on The Conversation website wrote: “The interference that induced it (Sachs’ resignation) constitutes an unprecedented subversion of the country’s national budget process and National Treasury’s mandate to ensure stability and sustainability of public finances.”

And, that there is “… some hope that a victory in December for the anti-state capture grouping in the governing African National Congress’s elective conference might be able to stabilise governance and public finances. But, it now appears that a great deal more damage could still be done by the president before then.”

Whoever wins in December, if the ANC allows President Zuma to complete his term as president of the country until the general election in 2019, some 15 to 18 months remain in which he is sure to play more havoc with the country’s economy and its governance structures.

Danger of revolt

Some commentators are warning that the ANC government is increasingly running the danger of what William Saunderson-Meyer calls a taxpayer revolt.

Judge Dennis Davis, who heads a committee tasked with tax system review, warned that the greater the state corruption, the greater the possibilities of a tax revolt. And, Tax Ombud Judge Bernard Ngoepe cautioned that if taxpayers come to believe that those charged with the administration of their money are unethical, they will stop paying.

The majority of voters might not be in a position or have the capacity to become part of a ‘taxpayers’ revolt,’ but they have the ballot box as an instrument to air their frustrations. Unless the ANC soon brings the Zuma horror series to a close, it is likely to become final victim in the Zuma story line.

We think former Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel was spot on when he recently, before the latest episode or two in the ‘series,’ said there is a “very strong reality” that the ANC might lose the 2019 election. If Mr Zuma remains in the leading role after December, that “reality” will come close to be a certainty.

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by Piet Coetzer

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