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On wak­ing up last Fri­day morn­ing, we learnt that our trusted fi­nance min­is­ter, Pravin Gord­han, and his deputy, Mce­bisi Jonas, had been re­moved un­der the cover of dark­ness at the stroke of mid­night. Fol­low­ing the dis­as­trous ap­point­ment of Des van Rooyen on De­cem­ber 9 2015, Gord­han was handed a poi­soned chal­ice and worked tire­lessly to pre­vent our beloved South Africa from be­ing down­graded to junk sta­tus.

Since 2000, South Africa had en­joyed the ben­e­fits of a good credit stand­ing. It took hard work and ded­i­ca­tion to gain an in­vest­ment-grade rat­ing fol­low­ing the ru­inous legacy of apartheid.

The fi­nance team which ef­fected this re­sult was ini­tially led by Chris Lieben­berg. He was suc­ceeded in 1996 by Trevor Manuel. Dur­ing his 13-year term, Manuel was a house­hold name here and be­came the flag­bearer for our sta­ble econ­omy on the global stage.

When Gord­han took over from him, the pro­tracted hon­ey­moon that we had en­joyed since the dawn of our democ­racy, April 28 1994, was over. The world econ­omy was in trou­ble, but South Africa had dodged the prover­bial bul­let, thanks to the con­ser­va­tive poli­cies im­ple­mented un­der Manuel and his team.

In keep­ing with his ex­em­plary pre­de­ces­sors, Gord­han and his team worked tire­lessly to en­sure that our coun­try main­tained its place as the big­gest econ­omy on the African con­ti­nent. Un­der his lead­er­ship, our econ­omy sta­bilised and showed pos­i­tive signs, while the econ­omy of world pow­ers fal­tered or re­cov­ered slowly.

When Nhlanhla Nene took over from Gord­han in May 2014, our credit rat­ing was in­tact, al­beit un­der pressure. Thanks to our hard­earned eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal rep­u­ta­tion, we were able to bor­row suc­cess­fully in the cap­i­tal mar­kets at rates which al­lowed our eco­nomic growth and low in­fla­tion to con­tinue.

It all changed when Nene was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously re­moved on De­cem­ber 9 2015 and re­placed by a cap­tured min­is­ter who would have taken us to the depths of de­spair had the coun­try, and cer­tain brave lead­ers, not voiced their out­rage. Un­der pressure from all quar­ters, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was forced to reap­point Gord­han, who agreed to steady the ship. In do­ing so, Gord­han brought sta­bil­ity back to our be­lea­guered cur­rency.

On Mon­day, South Africans re­ceived the shock­ing news that our credit rat­ing had been low­ered to subin­vest­ment grade by S&P Global. Al­though this was not un­ex­pected, it came on the back of Zuma hav­ing scored yet an­other own goal with the pre­vi­ous week’s sack­ing of Gord­han and Jonas.

The lat­est po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vres, cou­pled with the coun­try’s pro­tracted low growth and gov­ern­ment’s manic loot­ing of the public cof­fers, have plunged the coun­try into a cri­sis.


LIGHT­BULB MO­MENT Thou­sands of South Africans marched in Dur­ban on Fri­day, in sol­i­dar­ity with demon­stra­tors coun­try­wide, call­ing for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to step down or be fired

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