Pravin Gordhan's Burden is More Than We Know

2016-02-28 00:07

Following the recent ministerial game of pawns late last year, the furor surrounding Jacob Zuma's shuffling shenanigans have left observers from all sides more nervous than ever. Pravin Gordhan's re-appointment as Minister of Finance was hailed as something which should have re-stabilized the currency and restored what dignity we had left as a nation. Recent events however have left little to no doubt that his re-appointment was nothing but cheap placation, simply granted at the behest of nervous investors and irate bankers. It's already a fact that executives across the business sector had lobbied the president in a bid to recoil the madness surrounding van Rooyen's deployment the very same weekend he'd been chosen.

Within the sphere of government however, Gordhan's return to the hot seat has been nothing short of miserable for the man in my opinion. This comes as he's had to continue in the same fashion in which Nhlanhla Nene had left - blocking nefarious deals or intentions while scraping together whatever pennies are left in the state coffers to ensure monetary stability and reverse state deficits. South Africa's current account, as a result of borrowing from international lenders (like the WB and IMF among others) has led to all time highs in debt. This has been rising ever since the Zuma administration.

The ministry of finance, given it's salience in the state machine, has become the only arm of government that by necessity, is kept 'visibly clean'. This is the one arm of government, when attempted to be captured by Zuma, was vehemently opposed by an enraged public. Gordhan's position in contrast, seems more constrained. His re-appointment into the hotseat has already seen him tussle with SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane in his handling of recent spy scandals to have hit the revenue agency over the last year and a half. Briefings to the Minister deemed sensitive, have been shelved in efforts to hide unlawful acts and revenue collection schemes, apparently implicating some of the president's family members. Zuma himself is in no mood to remove Moyane and it should come as no surprise why.

Additionally, the Competition Commission's recent green lighting of [coal] mining contracts by Eskom to Gupta owned companies comes just a few days after the Minister announced he'd be scrutinizing deals of this very nature. I'm sure being a Gupta in South Africa at this point has both it's perks and drawbacks. Being 'friends with the Prez' indefatigably draws attention on you (whether your character/intention is good or bad). It's for this reason that Minister Gordhan's second round in the unenviable post as finance minister looks set to be characterized by conflict and resistance. Friends to some can prove foes to others. If other ministers, councilors and premiers are the yes men, then Gordhan is definitely the designated 'No-Man'. It depends how long he can maintain his posture and poise against the rapacious hounds that have come to surround the NEC and other structures of power.

So while ultimatums of resignation or the firing of Moyane are loaded with posturing, this looks to be the entirety of Gordhan 's arsenal. He is up against a political enclosure designed and entrenched to work against his favour. The budget speech may have been well received for its austerity measures but something's amiss if cadre's at provincial and municipal level aren't checked in their gross misspending and thievery. The Free State and Eastern Cape have become both luminous and disgraceful examples of this trend. The eating at the trough will continue no matter how many times he publicly denounces corruption (he's done that before - many times). His only hope now is to have a lesser constituency of corrupt officials at municipal and provincial posts forthwith.

The coming municipal elections are a good place for South Africans to enact and reclaim their agency, should they wish to not only help our finance ministry, but shake up the political scene and perhaps, start to invoke the responses from governance we'd like to see.

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