Columns 26.8.2016 09:36 am

Cyril, it’s time to pick a side

FILE PICTURE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation meeting comprising of former African Heads of State and Government. (Photo: GCIS)

FILE PICTURE: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation meeting comprising of former African Heads of State and Government. (Photo: GCIS)

People such as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will have to do better than just ‘pledging my full personal support to the finance minister’.

I expected it to last. The election afterglow, I mean.

The “collision” negotiations barely concluded, and then boom, before you knew it, the Sars wars had resumed without even giving the EFF two days to enjoy their “kingmaker” status.

It was straight back to the usual destruction of the country’s institutions. Business as (un)usual.

So Pravin Gordhan has been thrust back into the limelight, kicking and screaming. But the markets don’t like it when our minister of finance kicks and screams. They prefer him in the background – but some those in charge don’t appear to care that the rand is reasonably important. The markets, that amorphous mass of invisible investors who love stability, are not kind to governments that mess with stability. And the head of the Hawks has been messing with that stability.

The most awkward question I’ve been asked this year is “How do you know that Gordhan doesn’t have something to hide?” And my honest answer is I don’t. In fact, he could be as guilty as Oscar Pistorius, and I might change my views on what I think of the process that’s being used to bring the charges against him. But it’s a messy and very costly process. It’s as though “someone” is out to get him at all costs (wonder who it could be, hey?). And that is what I find disturbing.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Photo: GCIS

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Photo: GCIS

Whether Pravin is guilty or not, the government has a duty to ensure they manage the economy responsibly. Managing the economy responsibly includes dealing with the minister of finance in a way that does not cause the rand to behave like a marathon runner’s heartbeat. A responsible government knows that the sacking of the previous finance minister without warning a mere eight months ago was a lesson about how the markets don’t care about our internal processes as a country. The markets demand stability at all costs, or the poor will pay the biggest price.

ALSO READ: No law empowers Hawks to summon Gordhan

Why, then, this reckless pursuit of Gordhan? Since we are left to our own devices on this, we must be forgiven for guessing. Whether he set up a rogue spy unit that went haywire and investigated people he shouldn’t have and paid Pillay a giant golden handshake illegally (and there appears to be no compelling evidence for any of these crimes) would that justify the state pursuing Gordhan at a possible repeat cost of more than R500 billion to the economy – as was demonstrated by the sacking of Nhlanhla Nene in December?

This pain you felt, ANC, after August 3 will look like a scratch in 2019.

Why weren’t these charges pursued when Gordhan was minister of the far less rand-battering department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs?

You probably think the law must take its course, no matter what. So do I. But why was the investigation against Gordhan and his colleagues “suspended” for the duration of the local government elections? Surely if this were a bona fide investigation not motivated by political considerations, charges against the finance minister would have been pursued right through the election period.

My second guess must the be that this is clumsy state capture gone into overdrive. Groups that have taken it upon themselves to put Treasury in their pockets, perhaps see Pravin’s removal as a non-negotiable. They are not bothered that their efforts have have put their Number 1 man in an untenable position, and maybe he doesn’t care either any more. They do not care that their actions have contributed to the dismal performance of the ruling party at the polls in this month’s local government elections. They want Pravin’s head at all costs. So when he is replaced, they can get the deals they want to get, most notably that Russian nuclear deal. Maybe. Maybe indeed. Many think this is precisely our situation.

Most ominously, these people may have come to the conclusion that Number 1 will not see out his current term in office, so they must act right now, no matter the cost to you and me. This is the scariest part: that the wrecking ball that is our head of state has been deemed a sitting duck by even his closest allies who will now act to get whatever they can out of the state’s resources.

ALSO READ: State requests permission to appeal Oscar’s jail term

It makes no sense for the president to declare that “I’m fully behind the finance minister” while an organ of state has been unleashed in a patently illegal manner against the same minister. People such as the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa will have to do better than just an “I’m pledging my full personal support to the finance minister”.

It is time to pick a side, and the right one at that. Declare fully that, “as deputy president, I am totally opposed to the harassment of the minister”, because that’s what the country needs and should be demanding.

I am convinced that fear is still the most important determinant in our politics.

To hide behind “full support” is not enough.

The electorate has spoken – act against the wrecking ball that is our head of state or we will punish you much, much more. This pain you felt, ANC, after August 3 will look like a scratch in 2019.

Steve Biko once noted that “fear is the most important determinant in South African politics”. That was in the 1970s. The way prominent figures are afraid to voice their displeasure at the way the president has run his affairs and those of the country over the past seven years, I am convinced that fear is still the most important determinant in our politics.

And it is that fear that is keeping people quiet when the likes of Gordhan are being persecuted by those abusing state resources. In much the same way that Jacob Zuma was supposedly persecuted by those allegedly abusing state resources (which is yet to be proven in court) before he became state president, one would hope that he learnt his lesson that the abuse of state resources for personal gain never ends well – especially for ordinary Joes and Janes like you and me.

Sydney Majoko

Sydney Majoko

 

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