Mboweni offers food for thought

Finance minister Tito Mboweni.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Finance minister Tito Mboweni is probably not returning to the job after the general elections in May. He was a reluctant appointee in the first place and has never hidden the fact that he initially resisted President Cyril Ramaphosa's call for him to replace Malusi Gigaba.

Assuming the ANC will win the May elections, Ramaphosa may have to do some more serious convincing if he hopes to make the former Reserve Bank governor stay.

He would also face serious resistance from within the ranks of his own party, the ANC, where a powerful faction sees Mboweni - and the president, for that matter - as pushing positions that were counter to the "radical economic transformation" programme adopted at its last national conference.

One could sense some of that tension during Mboweni's budget speech in parliament yesterday as some of the ANC MPs were reluctant to clap hands as the finance minister announced tough measures aimed at saving Eskom and other state-owned enterprises, as well as putting the economy back on a solid growth path.

We may not agree with some of the measures announced by Mboweni, however, we cannot help but admire his candidness - especially in an election year.

Perhaps it is precisely because he is not expecting to be reappointed that made it possible for him to speak so forthrightly.

His statement that the national budget was supposed to be "in the interest of our people and our country, and not in the narrow objectives of any political party" is a message that we hope will be remembered by our politicians long after he had departed.

Party political considerations have often prevented the government from considering options that may rescue troubled parastatals such as Eskom.

Mboweni's challenge to MPs, and SA at large, yesterday was that the country re-examines if it needs all the parastatals it owns. And if it does, how can they be better managed? These are unpopular questions, especially among variants of the broad leftist tendency within the ANC.

Yet if we are to fix our economy and ensure that services such as electricity are guaranteed, we have to tackle such questions head-on, and frankly so.

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