FOR THE SAKE OF THE POOR,
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