Newsmaker – Hunky Tim Harris diverts Zuma’s spotlight

2014-02-16 14:00

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Tim Harris is probably better known for his striking good looks than for what he says on finance policy, but the man is not fazed.

“We need to do what it takes to win hearts and minds,” he says with a deadpan expression when asked what he makes of this attention. Harris must get this a lot.

People openly perv over him on Twitter and, at some point, a male DA staffer ran an unofficial Tim Harris fan club.

Even as Harris’ lank figure effortlessly poses for pictures in the passage next to the City of Cape Town’s council chambers – where the DA yesterday had its federal executive meeting – it is difficult to imagine what he looks like on a bad day.

On Thursday night during the state of the nation speech, “Tim Harris” trended on Twitter in South Africa ahead of the man doing the talking, President Jacob Zuma.

Seconds after a picture of Harris was tweeted arriving at the Poorthuis ­entrance of Parliament with his wife, Cara, at his side, some female tweeters mourned the fact that he was married.

Some simply retweeted his picture out of admiration.

When asked why he thought he was trending on the social networking site, he giggled, somewhat embarrassed, then curtly said: “It is because of what I’m saying about economic policy.”

In that regard, Harris is having a busy time. There was the DA’s controversial jobs march on Wednesday, originally destined for Luthuli House but abandoned mid-march because of security concerns.

There’s the launch of the DA’s plan for growth and real jobs in Cape Town tomorrow, where his portfolio is leading the press conference. Then, two days before Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech later this month, he will be presenting an alternative budget to the media.

“This year will be more interesting than normal,” he says.

“The DA will be tweaking some of its policies, but essentially the party’s watchword, or phrase, is job creation. With the march, we wanted to take the ANC on on its rather weak promise on jobs, and highlight our stronger commitments.”

Instead of the ANC’s promised 6?million job opportunities, the DA is promising to create that amount of actual jobs, he says.

For this, economic growth is needed, as well as focus.

Harris says that, ironically, he often supports Gordhan, but the finance minister himself struggles to get the same kind of support from his fellow ministers or even the president.

Harris holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Cape Town and got his first job in the DA when his lecturer told him that the party was looking for a researcher for a short contract. He stayed on to work in former DA leader Tony Leon’s office and landed a seat in Parliament in 2009.

At 34, he is about the same age as parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko and is part of the DA’s crop of bright young leaders.

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