Cape Town – Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba told Treasury staff to “forget all the noise outside” as he believes the negative reaction to his appointment will pass.
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The former Home Affairs minister’s statement comes as Save SA continues its “occupation of Treasury” outside his headquarters in Pretoria on Church Square and following rating agency Standard & Poor's downgrade of South Africa's sovereign bonds to non-investment grade, or junk status.
“Forget all the noise outside. Do your jobs. What you see and hear will pass. Change brings with it such anxieties,” Treasury quoted him as saying on Twitter on Tuesday.
His speech occurred in front of staff, who were gathered in the old Reserve Bank building in Pretoria to hear their new leader’s vision for Treasury. Staff sat cross-armed and silent, a stark comparison to their singing of “Senzenina”(What have we done) and the national anthem in the very same room on Friday, as former Finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, were about to address them.
Treasury staff have been waiting
Ever since Nhlanhla Nene was fired as their minister in 2015, civil servants at Treasury knew their strong ideals and ethics would once again be challenged with a leader that may bring a different set of ideals. The rise of the narrative of "radical economic transformation", the proposed nuclear deal and the perception of Treasury being a "Dr No" adds to this uncertainty.
WATCH: Staff sing Senzenina for Gordhan and Jonas
New bosses: will not spend money we don't have
Gigaba and his new deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi, have been at pains to stress their commitment to these ideals, but the “noise” from politicians and critics is at a deafening pitch this week.
Some allege the new leaders have been deployed to Treasury to push forward key programmes like the nuclear deal and to undermine the fiscal integrity of the institution.
“You guys have distinguished yourselves over many years,” Gigaba told staff on Tuesday. “We will support you in that effort, especially at this time.”
“There is a lot of work. I work hard. I am a good listener, but I also take decisions.”
Buthelezi told staff “there are limited resources and too many competing priorities”, adding that Treasury “will not spend money we don't have”.
Treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile told staff that "we are all professionals and ours is to do our work professionally within the framework of the law".
Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Fuzile has asked to leave Treasury by the end of the month, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.
Fuzile told Fin24 on Tuesday that “if and when I leave, I will endeavour to ensure that such a step is orderly and not harmful to the stability of Treasury as an important fiscal institution”.