Fica gets on the road

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.(Photo: AFP)
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.(Photo: AFP)

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is this week going to announce a road map for how the new amended Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica) will be implemented.

Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi said at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this month that National Treasury would “get cracking” on the new sections that would be associated with the new act, which targets money laundering and other illicit activity, after President Jacob Zuma signed it into law late last month.

Banking Association of SA managing director Cas Coovadia said at the WEF that more about the implementation of Fica would become clear when the act’s regulations are put in place.

It would cost the banking system millions to implement the act and the associated regulations, Coovadia added.

Gigaba’s other plans for this week include trying to find ways to prevent another ratings downgrade and conducting interviews for the new director-general to replace Lungisa Fuzile, who bade farewell to Parliament this week.

National Treasury this week announced that it had received more than 30 applications for the job of director-general.

In a blow for Gigaba, it emerged this week that another senior Treasury official, Andrew Donaldson, had taken early retirement after more than 20 years at the department.

Gigaba made his debut in his new role in Parliament this week but glossed over contradictions about policy direction and dismissed as cheap distractions questions about his adviser and his wife.

He denied that National Treasury was speaking with a “forked tongue” under his leadership, and said that he was the minister, nobody else.

Gigaba was asserting himself amid accusations from the opposition that his wife may exert inappropriate influence on him on policy matters.

Marxist views

He also distanced himself from the “radical” views of his adviser Chris Malikane, a Wits associate professor who holds Marxist views.

He repeated once again that Malikane had been “reined in” and was being “inducted” into Treasury.

DA spokesperson for finance David Maynier told City Press that he felt that the finance minister had hit “serious turbulence” in Parliament, “somersaulting between radical economic transformation and inclusive economic growth”.

Malikane had become a “political ball and chain”, and Gigaba had once again been forced to defend him by claiming, “oddly, that he does not speak with a forked tongue”.

“The bottom line is that the finance ministry is off-message and sounds less like Bloomberg and more like ANN7. It’s a complete shambles and it is bad for South Africa,” said Maynier.

On the other side of the ideological divide, Economic Freedom Fighters chief whip Floyd Shivambu also criticised Gigaba.

Referring to Malikane as “Comrade Chris” in a meeting of the standing committee on finance, Shivambu said that it made no sense for the minister to declare his support for radical economic transformation and in the same breath say that they were still deliberating on what radical economic transformation meant.

He said that it was symptomatic of the ANC’s “incoherent waffling”, which had exposed the “ideological poverty” of a party married to a “neoliberal agenda”.

Gigaba’s spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, said: “It would be an expensive exercise for the country if the minister allowed himself to be distracted by people’s obsessions.”

Tshwete said the minister remained focused on the urgent work ahead, with priorities this coming week being the Fica road map, the director-general interviews and staving off a ratings downgrade.

MPs also took the opportunity to grill him on Treasury’s “problem children”, including SAA, Eskom and the SABC, and the fate of the nuclear build programme and illicit outflows of money from SA.

Gigaba indulged MPs and delivered answers confidently in the committee meeting, though during oral replies in the National Assembly the following day, he blocked a question about Malikane.

He successfully argued on a technicality that it was premature to answer as a question about Malikane was scheduled lower down on the order paper. – Additional reporting by Justin Brown

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