Cape Town – In the newly released book, Enemy of the People, former National Treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile recalled the confusion, disruption and the poor taste in which Des van Rooyen and his advisers tried to capture South Africa’s fiscal purse.
These are the top quotes from Fuzile, who recalled the painful December week in 2015 in which President Jacob Zuma removed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister.
Van Rooyen replaced him for the weekend, but was then replaced by Pravin Gordhan, who had been finance minister before.
Fuzile gave Enemy of the People authors Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit a starting recollection of the days leading up to Nene's removal and the few days Van Rooyen lasted in office.
He recalls the moment he heard the news in a chapter titled, "the day everything changed", and explains the madness that ensued.
1. Fuzile, on Nene’s capable leadership as Finance minister
“One of the amazing things about Nene was his ability to take tough decisions. We started to reduce expenditure during Gordhan’s time, but went further under Nene – and we raised taxes. We were adamant that we were not going to give up our fiscal sovereignty and end up at the doors of the (International Monetary Fund) IMF or World Bank, because then you can kiss your macroeconomic and social policies goodbye.”
2. Fuzile, on a nuclear meeting a day before Nene was fired
“It was a difficult meeting and left me with the clear impression that political considerations superseded the technical, economic considerations.”
3. After Nene messaged Fuzile on December 9, 2015 saying, "the axe has fallen", an ANC NEC member phoned to tell Fuzile…
“Have you seen the news? I suppose you’re going to get a Gupta minister now. Don’t you know the modus operandi? Look at what happened at the Department of Mineral Resources. The Guptas decide who they want as minister. They then send along advisers.”
4. Fuzile’s reaction to Nene’s firing
“Nene was doing a good job. His firing was unexpected, but it was becoming obvious that there was a lot of unhappiness with him, about Treasury, because he was not doing what some people wanted him to do.”
5. Fuzile, on Van Rooyen’s adviser and Trillian-linked consultant Mohamed Bobat
“This guy, Mohamed Bobat, walks up to me and hands me a statement that is supposed to be issued on behalf of the minister. I ask him who he is, and he replies he is the minister’s adviser. I found his rudeness annoying. He started issuing instructions, including to me, this young boy pushing me around … a lightweight. He was making a terrible mistake with me.”
6. Fuzile, on Van Rooyen’s advisers, who kicked Treasury officials out their offices and started demanding documents
“The bullying was bad.”
7. What Lakela Kaunda, Zuma’s chief of staff, told Fuzile a few days after Van Rooyen’s appointment
“Look, there’s going to be another change at Treasury, this one hasn’t worked, you are getting PG (Pravin Gordhan) back.”
8. Fuzile, on having Gordhan back in the driver’s seat
“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.”
… not quite the end
The peace and stability lasted for just over a year. On March 30, 2017, Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet, removing Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas as deputy minister.
Fuzile resigned shortly thereafter.
* The above extracts were taken from Enemy of the People, how Jacob Zuma stole South Africa and how the people fought back, written by Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit and published by Jonathan Ball Publishers.
Pictured (from top to bottom): Nhlanhla Nene; Lungisa Fuzile; Ajay and Atul Gupta with Duduzane Zuma; Nene; Des van Rooyen; the old Reserve Bank in Pretoria, where the Finance Ministry is based; Pravin Gordhan; Fuzile; Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas. (Photos: Gallo, GCIS and Fin24).
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