Don’t touch me on my economy

Georgina Guedes

We may never know what happened in the offices of various government and ANC officials and supporters over the past weekend – I’d certainly watch that movie if I could – but we do know that something like good sense has prevailed.

While we may have lost a great Minister of Finance, he’s been replaced with a great Minister of Finance (we know, because he was before), and the losses that the rand and our economy suffered as the result of a staggering misstep by President Jacob Zuma are correcting themselves.

It also seems that the great steps forward taken by Minister Nhlanhla Nene in his time as Minister of Finance will be resumed by Minister Pravin Gordhan. They were pretty much the direction that Gordhan was steering the country’s finances in anyway, only now the constraints are even tighter.

He crossed a line

There is a palpable sense of relief in the country that while the powers that be might let Zuma get away with apparent staggering corruption and opacity around the spending of taxpayer money, there is a point at which he goes too far. Someone, somewhere, somehow draws a line.

Of course, it would be great if that line were drawn sooner, and on issues relating to all aspects of government, rather than just the economy where the greatest financial losses by the most affluent of South African individuals and businesses stand to lose ground.

It would be wonderful if there could have been multiple “That’s actually not good enough” moments along the way. These earlier moments that could have prevented us from getting to a point where the president thinks that he can unseat a perfectly performing minister of the most important institution in the country because the minister won’t let him have his own way.

Nonetheless, while those earlier stopping points would have been fantastic, at least we’ve reached one now.

Sure, we’ve only put a stop to the wrecking ball that Zuma was unleashing our economy, rather than on the more delicate issues of poor education, rampant unemployment, extreme poverty and unfettered corruption, but we’ve spent the last 20 years building that economy, and it’s good to know that even the prez himself isn’t allowed to wilfully dismantle it (or not that fast anyway).

The cracks are showing

At the same time, it seems that Zuma has done himself unimaginable harm by letting all that power go to his head. At some point, his desire to pursue vanity projects and personal relationships are not good enough justifications for doing whatever the hell he wants, whenever the hell he wants to.

He’s now had to pay the price, not only in one of the most humiliating turnarounds a president has ever had to blag his way through, but also in the acknowledgement by the people around him (and above him?) that his power is not absolute, and his ludicrous decisions won’t be supported.

I hope that the power we’ve found in our own voices in last week will not be diminished by apathy and the Christmas break, and that we continue to express what we know – that enough is enough, that Zuma’s time has come, and that this country deserves better, and we demand it for our people – in the months to come.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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