Dear Minister Pravin Gordhan... Let’s Talk Frankly
- Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
- 05 Jan 2016 (South Africa)
You must have gone to bed smiling as you saw off 2015. I am sure that you crackled a cricket or two, even in your quiet suburb. I know you threatened to work throughout the holidays, but I have it on good authority that you did take a well-deserved break. I mean, after 18 months of being handed a poisoned chalice by Msholozi, to sort out the most corrupt corner of government, and then being followed around by SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane, with all the allegations of a rogue spy unit – what happened to you at the end of last year must have come as a great, happy surprise.
Of course, if Moyane has any pride left he will start packing his bags. But we know that in South Africa very few people can spell 'resignation'. We only know how to sign once this business of signing again is not for us. I do remember that in your previous life, however, you forced your former SARS Commissioner to fall on his sword for the lesser crime of flirting with a young girl over a possible job offer. So if I were Moyane, I wouldn’t particularly relax, especially after attempting to embarrass you with silly allegations of impropriety.
Your re-appointment to the powerful job means either no one believes Moyane. Maybe they still do, and think they will have something they can control you with, after being unable to control any Finance Minister in recent times.
They say with stuff like that you have to make sure you do not miss. The Sunday Times seems to have missed, and had to eat a big humble pie on its front page for besmirching your great name.
But nevertheless, I am writing to say more than just happy new year to you, super Minister.
Frankly, you are now officially the most powerful politician in South Africa. You can’t be fired for a long time to come, except of course if it is found that you indeed spied on uBaba. He will, at that, point really not care about what the markets are going to say. I hope you will still use whatever time you have as Finance Minister to do a few things, and maybe even throw a few javelins that will make you survive for much longer. I believe in you, and for the life of me I cannot understand why uBaba would have replaced you as Finance Minister in the first place – other than the bad advisors he keeps. There was really no good reason. I am told in your resistance for the forced reappointment, you also wondered out loud why you were essentially fired the last time around. As with many other President’s decisions, we were non the wiser.
Back to the power you wield, I do think that there are a few things that you can do now that you have political cover of sensible members of the ANC’s National Executive Committee and mostly white business. It was interesting how Jeff Radebe name-dropped an all-white group of bankers they consulted to undo uBaba’s Disney World-like merry-go-round decision. I am told on very good authority that Cyril Ramaphosa threatened to resign so you got to be as close to him as possible to secure yourself for the rainy day when uBaba may feel emboldened anew, which is bound to happen. With him and his survival tricks you can never be too safe. So you must not let your guard down. If I were you, I would record all your conversations, just in case he wants to entrap you or something similarly savoury. I do not have to tell you whether you can trust a guy who dropped a Finance Minister within four days of his appointment, when his own ship was threatening to sink. But enough with the conspiracy theories. Let us leave those to Ambassador Lindiwe Zulu.
Before your untimely departure from your portfolio the last time around, you appointed someone called the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO). Under his watch we still have R25 billion of wasteful expenditure in local government. The disaster that happened also under your watch at Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). So one can say both of you have a case to answer. I am still not convinced that concentrating possible theft in one place is the way to go. I am happy for you to prove me wrong. But frankly I think your mission is to get at least one corrupt minister fired this year, if anyone is to believe that this new procurement approach is worth the paper it is written on. You need to expose the corruption that is right at the top, or else forget about effectively dealing with this scourge. Many of us have always said ministers must not be above suspicion on smelly deals. I mean, look at the allegations against ex-Minister of Transport, Sbu Ndebele. The guy is said to have opened a Capitec account to hide his loot. Who does that? I mean you really have to at least force these ministers to go on a course of finance for non-finance ministers; that way they will not embarrass the movement so badly on the eve of an election. How he will explain this Capitec income, only heaven knows. Or maybe I am being too simplistic. You know politicians, they will deny until the last cock crows. Their simplicity is maybe the ultimate sophistication... But I digress terribly.
It is crucial that the issue of SAA be your power-flag flying high. You have done well so far, and you need to follow this up by summarily firing Dudu Myeni during one of the President’s trips abroad. I am told he will be travelling on his 100th state visit just after your Budget vote. Just sommer fire her, and get security at SAA to march her off the sixth floor of airways park, and promptly, to stop her covering her crooked tracks. You cannot do this kind of thing quietly. You need to make it spectacularly irreversible, otherwise you are going to be seen as an emasculated Finance Minister who could not stand up to an alleged mistress of the President.
I know it is not true, etc. I mean the President could not possibly have the time, but you have to act, for the sake of the country and the markets, who ensured your appointment. I am sorry, but there is no two ways about this.
When you are done with that, you and your CPO must then frustrate the nuclear deal. Yes, you heard me: Frustrate the damn thing. You have started by simply asking the question – can we afford it? Is it money that we don’t have? With that, you are half-way there. After the arms deal report, which is now on Msholozi’s desk for consideration, you must strike while the iron is hot. This may be in months from now, since Msholozi does take time applying his mind on reports of this magnitude, which gives you time to plan your move. All you have to say is we cannot afford another arms deal, and you will be done with the story. Green Peace, the churches, all of whom have thrown down the gauntlet over Nhlanhla Nene’s firing, disgruntled unions and the hashtag brigades will all support you.
By the way, another thing we cannot afford is free education, but here you have to be clever. The students are the future, so you have to find a way of cutting down on the private jet that is mooted, and say that the four billion that it will cost the country, will go to education, instead. This way you would have been seen to rob Jacob to pay Paul (Mashatile), who was the first to tell us we have no more money to spend on Nkandla. Which brings me to another preoccupation. Start calling the fire pool the swimming pool, and you will be half-way there to dealing with the wasteful expenditure on Nkandla. I am told that the architect is in hot water over the binge, so all I am suggesting is that you get the Asset Forfeiture Unit Unit to visit him in the dead of night, just for control...
You will be surprised that all the noise you can make in DAVOS, or all the poetry you will dish to us in your Budget speech in February, will mean nothing if you do not dispose of the matters in the in-tray of your serious predecessor, Nene. His sin was to say “Ne Ne Ne” to everything uBaba wanted. I am told the Gaelic meaning of your surname Gordhan is “hero”. That is exactly what you already are to many, and what you will be to many more, if you just said these simple “No No Nos”.
Finally, there are few Cabinet colleagues to watch both on the over-spending and economic meltdown stakes. The country is still waiting to officially understand why Ngoako Ramatlhodi was fired. His replacement, Mosebenzi Zwane. must be reading off a Saxonwold script. You have to keep an eye on him, given the rumblings in the mining industry. The accidental Minister of Local Government also has to be watched closely, as he probably will not know what on earth he is doing. We do not want to see your 18 months of work go up in flames like his house back in Merafong. Of course you have to watch like a hawk, Jou ma se Pettersson; she is worse than a wrecking ball, so much that uBaba wants to replace her with one of his worst Ministers, just to be rid of her. So, watch out! She is the one who did not have enough time to sign the nuclear declaration herself, and used ex-Minister Ben Martins’ signature, scribbled months earlier to bring a recent government gazette on nuclear online. Me thinks (speaking under correction though) that alone should make the gazette invalid, since Martins is no longer a Minister. Just pure and simple incompetence explained away in usual government gobbledegook. It can work as part of frustrating the damn thing. Of course, on the provinces' side it has been made simple whom you need to watch out for; the big spenders like Premier Ace Magashule, who has just splashed out on a R2.4 million Mercedes Benz.
Enough said. Here is to you as the most powerful politician – at the moment. Use your power wisely, and remember, it will not last that long. DM
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