The spat between Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and the presidency is the latest sign of President Jacob Zuma’s weak leadership, according to political economist Iraj Abedian.
The conflict came after Zwane said in a statement last week that Cabinet had resolved to recommend the president consider a judicial inquiry into the banks and firms that cut their business ties with the Gupta family’s investment vehicle, Oakbay.
Zwane issued the statement as chairperson of the inter-ministerial committee set up earlier this year to consider allegations that certain banks and other financial institutions acted unilaterally and allegedly in collusion when they closed the bank accounts and/or terminated contractual relationships with Oakbay Investments.
The statement was swiftly rubbished by the presidency as well as the ANC, which called Zwane’s statement “reckless”.
“If Cabinet is not working together, it means the president is not leading. For a minister to be so out of line, he cannot be trusted to speak for Cabinet, is very telling,” Abedian said.
“This is yet another case of chaos in Cabinet and it is not comforting for business, internationally and locally. Right now Cabinet is like a ship in the ocean with no compass and no captain to steer it.”
But SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Alan Mukoki said what Zwane was suggesting was not unusual if it was done legally.
“The law is very specific about how particular individuals and institutions can and should conduct themselves. We should worry more about what ministers are saying, and whether government intends on putting together legislation to change the law to suit ministers to allow them to do what they want,” said Mukoki.
Abedian said the current discourse between members of cabinet and state entities was worrying. “Some ministers have no clue what it means to be a minister or they haven’t been briefed. “They seem to have no sense of national interest and instead take care of their own interests.”
But, said Abedian, the presidency’s response may quell investor fears about South Africa’s banking sector. “The presidency’s response has allayed the fears of an inquiry into the banking sector. But such an inquiry done properly could actually uncover a lot of illegal financial flows, but for now it is not going to happen.”
In recent months there have been numerous disputes between state entities.