It’s all eyes on the finance minister Malusi Gigaba and the budget speech he is expected to deliver on Wednesday afternoon. The minister is clouded in controversy for his connections to the infamous Gupta family, business friends of former president Jacob Zuma. South Africans are particularly concerned with how the budget speech will align to the optimism of the so-called new dawn that five-day-old President Cyril Ramaphosa is cultivating. While opposition parties have concerns about the contents of the budget speech and who is delivering it.
Like most of South Africa, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is brimming with optimism about the potential change in direction national government will take under Ramaphosa. “The budget provides the first real opportunity to demonstrate such change,” the party said in a statement.
It is particularly concerned about the touted tax hikes and the effects this will have on ordinary South Africans. “The fact is that no government can tax itself to prosperity,” the DA said. “Gigaba must resist the temptation to plug the massive budget hole by reaching into the pockets of ordinary South African people, especially the poor”.
In its analysis the DA identified tax increases that it deems unnecessary. “If the minister and the ANC government implement expenditure cuts and sell off certain entities, it can save a massive R112 billion,” it added.
The party maintains that the ANC and Ramaphosa needs to curb wasteful and fruitless expenditure. “It is time that government takes responsibility for its dire financial situation and to stop raiding taxpayer’s pockets whenever it faces a financial squeeze.”
Some of the ways the DA believes the minister could deal decisively with the challenges during the main budget is to return control of the budget process to national treasury; announce a structural reforms to build investor confidence and stimulate private sector investment; announce austerity measures and a comprehensive spending review; restore the integrity of institutions by firing South African Revenue Service commissioner Tom Moyane; reform state-owned enterprises by privatising, or part privatising, Eskom; and by terminating the nuclear programme.
The DA say the budget is the first test for Ramaphosa and his government. “It cannot be ‘business as usual’. It must be a budget of tough, bold choices that favour the poor and the jobless,” the DA said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters is less concerned with the contents of the speech and more with the character that is delivering it. It calls on President Ramaphosa to remove Gigaba as finance minister with immediate effect. “This call is based on the fact that Gigaba is a Gupta stooge who was the engine of state capture under Jacob Zuma,” the EFF said in a statement.
It said when Gigaba previously served as the minister of home affairs, he ensured the Guptas South African citizenship and aided them to qualify for BEE deals with state owned enterprises.
The EFF spelled out Gigaba’s alleged role in the capture and corruption of state-owned enterprises like South African Airways, Transnet, and Eskom. It said he had directly influenced the Gupta’s family and its associates hold on the parastatals.
Finance minister plays a critical role, the EFF said, which is why Zuma removed Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan to allow for the “capture of the public purse directly by the Gupta family”.
Additionally, the EFF opposes a budget regime that raises VAT and targets the personal incomes of lower paid workers, to the exclusion of Corporate Income tax, as a means to raise revenue. “The rich must be taxed to support the poor, and the rich in this case are the big companies that make huge profits and pay workers peanuts,” the EFF said.
“Gigaba must fall and must fall yesterday. He is the polluted dark smoke hovering over the supposedly new dawn of Ramaphosa’s administration,” the EFF said. The party said it will boycott the budget vote if Gigaba presents it.
Despite high expectations of the president and faltering confidence in his finance minister, analysts said the budget speech exists relatively independently of the president or the person who delivers it.