In­tro­duc­ing Malusi Gi­gaba

Ques­tion marks re­main about his ca­pa­bil­ity to serve as fi­nance min­is­ter, but there are also a num­ber of rea­sons to back the man who could one day be pres­i­dent.

Finweek English Edition - - OPINION - Edi­to­rial@fin­week.co.za James-Brent Styan au­thored a book on the en­ergy cri­sis called Black­out: The Eskom Cri­sis. It was pub­lished in 2015. He writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

theap­point­ment of Malusi Knowl­edge Gi­gaba as South Africa’s new fi­nance min­is­ter at the end of March was met with shock. The rand plum­meted and the coun­try’s in­vest­ment rat­ing was down­graded to junk sta­tus. Since the an­nounce­ment, Gi­gaba has been putting out fires across the globe, from Wash­ing­ton to Durban and with an up­com­ing in­vestor road­show planned for Sin­ga­pore. To date he has also in­curred the con­tin­ued wrath of so­cial me­dia rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies who have crit­i­cised his choice of aca­demic Chris Ma­likane as one of his eco­nomic ad­vis­ers.

Ma­likane is known, among other things, for his strong views on na­tion­al­i­sa­tion – not a view the in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment com­mu­nity is par­tic­u­larly fond of.

In re­sponse to the up­roar, Gi­gaba has stated that he as min­is­ter is some­one who makes up his own mind.

Gi­gaba is also smart and may in fact be the most highly ed­u­cated min­is­ter of fi­nance since the ANC came into power in 1994. Around that time, Gi­gaba re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion, ma­jor­ing in ge­og­ra­phy, and later a master’s de­gree in so­cial pol­icy – about land in­va­sions – from the Univer­sity of Durban-Westville. He is cur­rently study­ing to­wards a doc­tor­ate. His pre­de­ces­sors did not have the same level of aca­demic cre­den­tials.

At 46 years of age, Gi­gaba is also the youngest per­son to be­come fi­nance min­is­ter.

In 2012, the late jour­nal­ist Mandy Ros­souw de­scribed him as fol­lows in her book Man­gaung: Kings and King­mak­ers: “Gi­gaba is the an­tithe­sis of youth lead­ers such as Julius Malema and Fik­ile Mbalula. If the young lead­ers were in a pri­mary school class, Malema and Mbalula would be the ones in the back of the class­room throw­ing pa­per balls and us­ing pages from their text­books to roll tobacco. Gi­gaba, on the other hand, would be the goody-two-shoes sit­ting in front in a pris­tine white shirt, with all his home­work done. He wouldn’t be very pop­u­lar with the other kids but the teach­ers would love him.”

Speak­ing of love, if he has one real Achilles heel it may be his stormy per­sonal life. He di­vorced first wife Nokuthaba fol­low­ing sev­eral pub­lic fall­outs. She was also the root cause of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion against him, af­ter Gi­gaba used a de­part­men­tal credit card to buy her flow­ers worth R1 020. He paid the money back.

Fol­low­ing the di­vorce, Nokuthaba hung onto the sur­name, even reg­is­ter­ing as Mrs Gi­gaba on In­sta­gram. This led to a big tiff when Gi­gaba mar­ried Norma Mn­goma in 2014. Min­is­ter of fi­nance Norma had to reg­is­ter a new user­name – Mrs Gi­ga­byte. Re­cently an­other storm raged with Norma Gi­gaba and an­other ex-girl­friend trad­ing very pub­lic blows on so­cial me­dia. Op­po­si­tion MPs have also not held back in their crit­i­cism, with DA MP David Maynier stat­ing that Gi­gaba’s ap­point­ment has been “a dis­as­ter”. The re­al­ity is, Gi­gaba’s ap­point­ment – and the im­pact on the econ­omy – was out of his con­trol. The reshuf­fle that led to his ap­point­ment was a de­ci­sion by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma; not some­thing Gi­gaba had much say in. One ques­tion to ask crit­ics is: if Zuma con­sid­ered Gord­han’s ten­ure no longer ten­able – if not Gi­gaba, then who should have re­placed Gord­han? He may well have been the best can­di­date to take the job. How­ever, pro­fes­sion­ally he does not come with­out bag­gage ei­ther. At the depart­ment of home af­fairs he had lots of bad press around an ill-fated visa reg­u­la­tions de­ba­cle that af­fected tourist num­bers. He can also not be too proud of the state of many state-owned en­ter­prises when he left the depart­ment of pub­lic en­ter­prises. A last con­cern is sug­gested links be­tween Gi­gaba and the Gupta fam­ily. He was asked at one of his first me­dia con­fer­ences as fi­nance min­is­ter to clar­ify the re­la­tion­ship, but he de­clined to an­swer and the mat­ter has not been put to bed. A ma­jor chal­lenge will be the out­flow of se­nior staff from Na­tional Trea­sury fol­low­ing the re­moval of Gord­han. To date the direc­tor-gen­eral, ca­reer civil ser­vant Lungisa Fuzile, and his deputy have both de­cided to leave Trea­sury. They may not be the last ones to go and re­plac­ing them may be chal­leng­ing. There is no doubt Gi­gaba could be a great min­is­ter of fi­nance. He is shrewd and like­able. In ad­di­tion, he al­ready dresses bet­ter than most Wall Street bankers and has years of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. This means he also has the back­ing of Zuma. In fact, one would strug­gle to find many Gi­gaba de­trac­tors within the ANC on all sides of the Zuma spec­trum. If Gi­gaba plays his cards right, it can­not be dis­counted that down the line – in an elec­tion cy­cle or two – the new fi­nance min­is­ter stands a real chance of be­ing elected to the big chair in the pres­i­dent’s of­fice. If that does hap­pen, the ex­pe­ri­ence at Trea­sury may be in­valu­able.

Gi­gaba is also smart and may in fact be the most highly ed­u­cated min­is­ter of fi­nance since the ANC came into power in 1994.

Malusi Gi­gaba

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