Thinking beyond party lines would do no harm when making critical appointments

Fred Khumalo Watching You
Tito Mboweni seems to have been appointed to deal with an impending crisis, that it is to allay the fears of the powerful markets who were in love with Nhlanhla Nene, says the writer.
Tito Mboweni seems to have been appointed to deal with an impending crisis, that it is to allay the fears of the powerful markets who were in love with Nhlanhla Nene, says the writer.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

When I told my 16-year-old daughter that not only had Nhlanhla Nene resigned as finance minister, but that he'd already been replaced by Tito Mboweni, she was shocked.

A look of distaste on her face, she said: "But isn't Mboweni, like, this shady thug?" It was my turn to be shocked: "Why would you say that?"

She replied: "It's, like, there's a famous Cassper Nyovest song about Tito Mboweni, Tito Mboweni."

Although my musical tastes are eclectic - everything from classical to jazz; mbaqanga to kwasa kwasa - sadly, I wouldn't recognise a Nyovest song even if it gave me a klap in the face, so I professed my ignorance.

Rolling her eyes at this ignorant old man, she immediately went online and got me to listen to a clip from the song. The penny dropped. Nyovest is singing about money. Not unlike American rappers who call American money "dead presidents".

It was my turn to educate her, tell her that Mboweni used to be governor of our Reserve Bank, hence the appearance of his signature on some of our older banknotes.

She was mortified that she'd mistaken a former Reserve Bank governor for a "shady thug". It was my turn to roll the eyes.

Later that day when I shared the news with my other daughter - who is 19 and is doing second year at university - she was shocked for a totally different reason. She said, "Tito Mboweni is still alive, OMG!"

"Why would he be dead, sweetheart?" I asked. She responded: "His signature appears on our money. And wasn't he in [Nelson] Mandela's first cabinet, after which he was Reserve Bank governor? I truly assumed he had long passed on. Couldn't they find a younger person?"

Her utterance was something to ruminate on. Yes, Mboweni served in Mandela's first cabinet as labour minister; therefore, according to her, he is ancient. But Mboweni is only 59. That's very young in this kind of business.

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, was 80 years old when he bowed out of his office in 2006. But that's not the point.

Mboweni is not only experienced and educated, he acquitted himself impressively - so the pundits tell us - in his previous appointments. Therefore, we have nothing to fear from his appointment.

However, Mboweni seems to have been appointed to deal with an impending crisis - that it is to allay the fears of the powerful markets who, by all indications, were so much in love with Nene.

It is possible that President Cyril Ramaphosa, facing a possible backlash from the markets, had to appoint someone with a record, someone they had dealt with before. In that regard, Ramaphosa must be commended for finding an immediate solution.

That having been said, the country needs a long-term strategy, not knee-jerk reactions to crises.

In our search for leadership excellence we never pause to think beyond party lines. Which is sad.

I do understand that appointees to these positions are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the policies of the governing party are implemented properly.

How about appointing an apolitical candidate and pair him with an equally competent and well-trained director-general who has ruling party credentials, if indeed the ruling party fears that its policies might be undermined or contradicted?

Surely, the priority should always be the country, not the party. Thinking aloud is allowed, isn't it?

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