Mr President, just tell us what you’re thinking

    Political analyst EBRAHIM FAKIR joins the rest of the country in asking what just happened to our finance ministry.

    Distance they say, sometimes gives perspective. Between several meetings and briefings today. I’m thinking of the hysteria back home over the replacement of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. What’s the problem with the change, I wonder. Is it just that JZ did it? Or is it who he has chosen to replace Nene with?

    In a context where the president provides no explanation for his decisions, Nene’s axing has fuelled anger, hysteria and wild speculation; considering that this is only the latest of several ill-advised, even irrational, appointments made by the president, this is fair.

    One should at least give JZ a chance. I, for one would, like to at least first see where Nene goes, where he is redeployed, or even what else the president does concerning this matter before I get hysterical.

    Consider also that this might be JZ’s attempt at recalibrating the SA economic policy mix – to de-concentrate and remodel competition where appropriate, construct relevant and effective monopolies where necessary, restructure international financial relations and shift the economy to a more productive path, with greater emphasis on manufacturing, industrialisation, distribution and diversification, and less regressive financialisation.

    Let’s face it, watching from Zürich, Switzerland, one of the finance capitals of the world, I can see how these fellas have had fits and flows, all on their own terms, in the form of dictating policy on regulatory liberalisation of exchange controls, right down to setting interest and inflation to our distinct disadvantage. This is intolerable, to be sure.

    Let’s appreciate that this cannot happen with a finance minister who thinks in regressive ways. A stubborn minister not open to new and different thinking is untenable, sure. But why appoint a failed mayor?

    On the back of woe in all the public enterprises, especially a second rate airline carrier, a blind commitment to unsustainable nuclear deals, a re-concentration of the primary sector and mining in particular, the failure of set top box distribution and digital migration in broadcast, increased defence spending on airplanes, and low to no growth under Zuma’s watch, there’s been a jobs bloodbath and dim prospects of a recovery.

    To be sure, some of these problems were inherited for his predecessors’ awful policy choices and reinforced by a myopic, destructive and retrogressive private sector unprepared to make any concessions and policy shifts. But he has also colluded with the private sector when it has served his patronage goals.

    The president may have good reasons for making the decisions he does, but why does he never tell us what these are?

    So why should we speculate for him? Worse, why should we trust him, when he doesn’t tell us what he is thinking and why?

    Everything he does may have some sound reasoning, but his actions consistently say something else.

    In short, Mr President, just tell us what you’re thinking.

    You may fear that this may undermine your cause and expose fault lines in the ANC. But the country matters, not the ANC. So fuck whether this is good or bad for the ANC. We care about whether this is good or bad for the country, whether it is good or bad for us.

    Convince us why your new appointment is rational and predictable. As president of the republic, you owe us an explanation. You are accountable to us.

    – Featured image of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, via GCIS on Flicker