The Big Read: Sleep with one eye open, Pravin
By Justice Malala
South Africa woke up to a new set of headlines about Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan yesterday.
This time the newspapers told us that the Hawks investigative unit had written to his lawyers and told them they would not arrest the finance minister.
That should bring some relief to many who have been worried about the devastating instability this would cause in the finance ministry and the effect these shenanigans would have on the rand, the investment climate and the economy. But is this the end of this sorry saga? No, not by a long shot. The enmity between the corrupt, acquisitive elite built around President Jacob Zuma and another ANC faction, supporting Gordhan, is deeper now than it has ever been. This weekend’s ceasefire is the beginning of a new form of battle.
This is what happens now.
Over the next few weeks and months a pincer movement will develop. Two narratives will be advanced. The first narrative will be that Gordhan and his team at the Treasury are holding back transformation and that, as Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said last week, they must not behave as though they are in “England or America”.
This is the narrative that is meant to keep the black middle class – particularly those influenced by the Gauteng ANC, which has not been impressed by Zuma’s poor leadership and his terrible stewardship of the economy – pacified. Who, after all, doesn’t want transformation accelerated all of 22 years after democracy? Who wants a state that allows one ministry to hold back necessary and urgent transformation? Even the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters wants transformation, dammit!
And so that narrative will trundle on. The aim? To tell this constituency that their economic prospects tomorrow, with a Treasury without Gordhan, will be better than their reality today.
A second narrative will also be advanced to buttress the first. This second narrative says “Look with wonder upon the works of Brian Molefe”, the man who in February said about the Guptas that they are “like the Ruperts or Oppenheimers or any other family business in South Africa”.
Did he not do an amazing job at the PIC? And at Transnet? And at Eskom (no load-shedding for a year)?
In the meantime, the Treasury will come under increasing pressure from various forces. The apartheid-era cop who lied under oath and now heads the Hawks, Berning Ntlemeza, will increase the pressure on Gordhan through the bogus investigation that the unit has been conducting for months. The SA Revenue Service, which is aiding and abetting Ntlemeza, will continue to behave as though it is not accountable to Gordhan and will defy him and his colleagues at the Treasury.
Whispering campaigns will continue against Gordhan and his colleagues. There will be whispers about Gordhan’s academic qualifications, his leadership of the Treasury, his relationships with various people and entities. The horrendous smear campaign currently focused on Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas will encompass Gordhan and others at the Treasury.
All this will be done with the tacit support of the president of the republic, a man who has made it clear that he was very satisfied with Des van Rooyen, the man he appointed in December last year, and wiped hundreds of billions of rands off the value of ordinary workers’ pensions and savings. Remember that Zuma said just a week-and-a-half ago at a meeting in Gauteng of the ANC’s national general council that Van Rooyen “was the best candidate to take over the control of the economy”.
Zuma then moaned that “South Africa is the only country in the world in which the majority does not control its own economy”.
Meanwhile, the Zuma machine will also be working furiously to sell the story that there is no capture of the state, or of Zuma himself, by the Gupta family. Again, remember Zuma’s words at the national general council: “If you talk about state capture, you’re misleading people. You’re taking a small issue and making it a big issue.”
So it will go. Gordhan’s departure will come shortly after his wife and family say to him: “What is the point of this? Why are you stressing yourself out like this?”
At some point he will join many other great men and women lost to the public service after Zuma’s arrival at the Union Buildings.
It will happen in time. And when it does, we will all gratefully accept that indeed “transformation” has to happen and that “the economy is in good hands”.
Then SAA, which Zuma has vowed to “get closer” to, will get its multibillion-rand bailout with the blessing of a new finance minister. The nuclear building programme will take off, costing us billions. Eskom’s deal with Tegeta will finally be smoothed out, making the Guptas and Zumas instant billionaires.
We will see a sudden spike in soft loans by the PIC – soon to be written off – to certain connected individuals. The Treasury will have been stolen.
This is what our future holds under Zuma.