'Not the time or place': Mboweni shuts down questions on strategy ahead of WEF on Africa

After meeting with the African National Congress top six, and ahead of the World Economic Forum on Africa - scheduled to be held in in Cape Town in September - Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni did not take kindly to questions from reporters about whether his economic policy strategy was getting adequate support.

Mboweni was coy on the issue during a Johannesburg media briefing ahead of the WEF event, due to kick off in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Mboweni released the document, entitled Economic Transformation, Inclusive Growth and Competitiveness: Towards an Economic Strategy for South Africa, last week.

The document promises economic growth of up to three percentage points and the creation of a million jobs, if the proposed reforms are agreed to and implemented.

Mboweni's remarks were made available through video contained in a thread of tweets by media guru, Thinus Ferreira.

'Being unkind'

When asked by a journalist – on behalf of "investors who will not be at WEF" – whether the document had been given support by social partners, Mboweni shut the line of questioning down, saying the media briefing was not the appropriate forum.

"There is a time and place for that," Mboweni rebuffed more than once.

"You should also respect older people," he added, as the reporter pressed him with the question.

Mboweni's last remark to the reporter was: "I think you are being unkind".

When additional journalists restated the question, Mboweni said: "When I was much younger, which was quite many years ago, I used to teach ANC activists politics and one of the subjects was dialectical materialism.

"Within dialect materialism there was a section I really liked called ‘time and place’. My students would answer that question by saying 'this is not the time or the place for that question'," the minister maintained.

Heated meetings and unhappy allies

Mboweni met with the ANC's top six on Monday to discuss the much-debated economic policy paper he released via the National Treasury last week.

The 77-page document sets out a list of interventions and reforms aimed at turning around the country's flagging economy.

The ANC's alliance partners are not happy with the strategy, with trade union federation the Congress of South African Trade Unions demanding its immediate withdrawal, calling it "incoherent, confused and unreliable".

Cosatu has accused Mboweni of assuming the role of prime minister in place of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The South African Communist Party has been more measured in its response, expressing "serious concern" over the sudden release of the report. It said it would respond in more detail once it had studied the document.

The public has also been called on to weigh in on the proposed structural reforms.

It is understood the document was released without consultation from the Cabinet.

The head of the ANC's economic transformation committee, Enoch Godogwana, confirmed to eNCA that he, together with Mboweni, would be meeting with the top six on Monday.

He said public debate was crucial, adding the manner in which the document was released undermined the debate as stakeholders questioned the source.

Speaking on Sunday, Ramaphosa said he was pleased with the healthy debate around the document.

Ramaphosa, who enjoys strong support in the alliance, said critics should come up with their own ideas. He added that government wanted to rely on a process that was open and consultative to get the buy-in.

During a media briefing on the outcome of its central executive committee meeting, Cosatu deputy general-secretary Solly Phetoe said Mboweni was pursuing a right-wing agenda that was defeated at several ANC conferences.

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