The Star Early Edition
Nene didn’t crash rand, racism is not an issue, says Zuma
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has lashed out at his detractors for “gross exaggeration” over his unpopular decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister – a move which wiped billions of rand off the economy last month.
He said the issue of race, too, which exploded on social media last week after black beach-goers in KwaZulu-Natal were called “monkeys” by estate agent Penny Sparrow, had also been exaggerated.
Zuma was speaking during a live interview on eNCA yesterday afternoon, following the ANC’s 104th celebrations at Rustenburg in North West on Saturday.
He said the shock removal of Nene, who had enjoyed the respect of global markets, and his replacement with the unknown MP David van Rooyen before replacing him with Pravin Gordhan as third finance minister in almost as many days was “not breaking the economy”, adding that people had exaggerated the issue.
“We took a decision that he (Nene) heads the Brics Bank as it needs an experienced person. If you took Van Rooyen, people would have said: ‘ How can you take a fellow who’s not a minister to run a bank?’” Zuma said.
“There was overreaction to that issue. It’s an exaggeration.”
When asked if he took full responsibility for the mess following Nene’s axing, Zuma did not answer the question directly, saying instead the markets had reacted in “a funny way” when Trevor Manuel was appointed finance minister.
Zuma attributed the weak rand to the global economic meltdown, saying the problem had been continuing for several years.
“Investors must not sit hesitantly. They must be involved in growing the economy. In the area of investment, we are absolutely clear. We have a plan,” Zuma added.
On racism, Zuma said the government had defeated the social ill when the ruling party pursued its agenda of non-racialism.
However, with time, people tended to exaggerate the issue of race, he said.
The country needed to be schooled on the issue of race to rid itself of those who lived in the past.
Zuma said people needed to work together to stop racist thinking and to close the economic gap between blacks and whites.
The implementation of black economic cmpowerment policies was moving very slowly, he said, adding that the government looked at industrialisation in order to open up the economy for blacks to participate.
“But we have not succeeded in changing the (face of the) economy. If the minority owns the economy, it influences the direction of a country,” the president said.
There were programmes in place to deal with parastatals, including Eskom, South African Airways and the SA Post Office.
It was resolved that the three state-owned enterprises should be put “under special eye”, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was in charge of that.
“Today people forget there was load shedding. The Post Office and SAA are being dealt with. There are plans being implemented,” he said, adding that the turnaround strategy for SAA had been delayed in its implementation.
The government was also serious about fighting corruption, with more than 200 employees having been dismissed already. But people did not notice this achievement due to political reasons, Zuma said.
He was also not bothered by his questionable relationship with the powerful Gupta family, owners of The New Age newspaper and television station ANN7.
He said the family had always been friends of the presidents of this country.