CityPress - - Voices -

Dear Mr Pres­i­dent, e write to you as con­cerned cit­i­zens in our pri­vate ca­pac­i­ties, con­vinced the mes­sage in this open let­ter is shared by mil­lions of South Africans.

We are alarmed by your state­ment “on the ap­point­ment of [a] new fi­nance min­is­ter”, is­sued on Wed­nes­day.

The coun­try’s credit rat­ing has re­cently been down­graded, with huge im­pli­ca­tions for bor­row­ing costs and the long-term abil­ity to lend by our fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, a func­tion crit­i­cal to stim­u­lat­ing eco­nomic growth. The rand has reached its low­est lev­els, with im­pli­ca­tions for macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity.

Tough eco­nomic times de­mand unity of pur­pose and stead­fast­ness in lead­er­ship. We do not think your de­ci­sion to re­move Nh­lanhla Nene from his po­si­tion, un­der the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, was pru­dent.

It is our view that in ex­er­cis­ing judge­ment on mat­ters such as the ap­point­ment of a min­is­ter of fi­nance, you do so with a view to main­tain­ing con­fi­dence in the in­tegrity of your of­fice and to pro­mote South Africa’s stand­ing in the global econ­omy. Noth­ing from your state­ment con­vinces us, Mr Pres­i­dent, that what you call “his de­ploy­ment to an­other strate­gic po­si­tion” will, as the Con­sti­tu­tion en­joins you, ad­vance our na­tional in­ter­ests and the wel­fare of the coun­try.

This view is in­formed by the pub­lic cli­mate in which con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment has been on the wane. Many de­vel­op­ments have poi­soned our po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. Th­ese in­clude:

The waste­ful and cor­rupt ex­pen­di­ture at your pri­vate res­i­dence in Nkandla;

Strained re­la­tions be­tween the ex­ec­u­tive and the ju­di­ciary;

Prob­lems with cor­po­rate gov­er­nance at the SABC;

Fi­nan­cial and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance chal­lenges faced by a num­ber of state-owned en­ter­prises, in­clud­ing the SA Post Of­fice and SAA, to name but two; and

The fi­nan­cial cri­sis threat­en­ing to de­stroy our higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

Your de­ci­sion to re­move Min­is­ter Nene from his po­si­tion has al­ready sent neg­a­tive sig­nals to the lo­cal econ­omy and to the in­ter­na­tional in­vestor com­mu­nity at large. The dam­age this is caus­ing to the cred­i­bil­ity of the coun­try may take years or even decades to re­verse.

Of im­me­di­ate con­cern is the grow­ing size of South Africa’s pub­lic debt, which will peak at 45.4% of GDP by 2018/19. As you know, Mr Pres­i­dent, in­ter­est on debt and com­pen­sa­tion of 40% have be­come the largest item of your gov­ern­ment’s bud­get, which is un­sus­tain­able.

The New Fis­cal Guide­lines in the medi­umterm bud­get pol­icy state­ment show there is mount­ing pres­sure on gov­ern­ment to de­liver qual­ity pub­lic ser­vices to the pop­u­la­tion, pro­vide free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion and in­vest in in­fra­struc­ture to stim­u­late growth in the econ­omy. As in­di­cated in the bud­get state­ment, we fear re­sources to do so may be in­ad­e­quate, and the coun­try may be forced to bor­row more and be un­able to do so be­cause of its poor credit rat­ing.

We ap­peal that Trea­sury be in­su­lated from po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ence, es­pe­cially be­cause this is the most im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tion to safe­guard macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity, a prime driver of con­fi­dence in the econ­omy, and a crit­i­cal agency to guar­an­tee fis­cal sus­tain­abil­ity for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

South Africans are di­vided over the use of nu­clear as a source of en­ergy. The world is ex­plor­ing re­new­able sources of en­ergy. If gov­ern­ment pur­sues nu­clear, it is im­por­tant that at all times con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions and the pub­lic pro­cure­ment rules that gov­ern­ment has set for it­self are ob­served.

We are aware Trea­sury had mis­giv­ings about, among other things, the cost­ing of the nu­clear build pro­gramme, in­sist­ing it should pass muster with the Public Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act. We urge pru­dence and par­si­mony with re­gard to pub­lic fi­nances. This is why we ex­press con­cern about the sud­den and un­ex­plained re­moval of a min­is­ter who seemed to be erring on the side of cau­tion.

Mr Pres­i­dent, at a con­fer­ence of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, you made pub­lic your opin­ion that the ANC comes first, and South Africa sec­ond. You de­fended this view in Par­lia­ment, the heart of our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy. We un­der­stand your party is im­por­tant to you, but plac­ing it be­fore the coun­try has left many of us doubt­ing if the Con­sti­tu­tion is in safe hands.

We are mind­ful that we have no power to re­move you from your po­si­tion, but we would like you to know that lead­ers who take their cit­i­zens for granted do so at their own peril. In the end, cit­i­zens pre­vail.

Mr Pres­i­dent, keep in mind that lead­er­ship is more than the au­thor­ity of an of­fice; it is more about the moral and eth­i­cal in­tegrity of the per­son who oc­cu­pies the of­fice.

We write to you with the sole in­ten­tion of mak­ing you aware that we are gravely con­cerned about the man­ner in which you are gov­ern­ing us. We find many of your de­ci­sions detri­men­tal to the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple.

We do not un­der­stand your au­thor­ity to ap­point or dis­miss min­is­ters as a li­cence for you to act against na­tional in­ter­ests.

Signed by: Bar­ney Pityana; Maxi Schoe­man; Vusi Pikoli; Moss Ntlha; Mzuk­isi Qobo; Mills Soko; Mavuso Msi­mang; Zwelinz­ima Vavi; Mark Hey­wood; Bo­nang Mo­hale; Prince Mashele; Law­son Naidoo;

Lumk­ile Mondi; Bru­tus Mal­ada; Miles Gil­jam; Reuel Khoza; Koffi Kouakou; Luthando Ty­hal­i­bongo;

Wan­dis­ile Mdepa; and Oya Hazel Gumede

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