South Africa is long overdue for an economic transformation but some state institutions stand in the way of achieving this. The treasury, according to President Jacob Zuma is among those.
Speaking at the ANC lekgotla’s three-day meeting, Zuma lashed out at the treasury headed by the finance minister Pravin Gordhan, saying it frustrates the SA economic transformation agenda
According to sources who attended the three-day meeting, Zuma criticized the Treasury for not making necessary funds available for certain projects, saying his ministers constantly complained about being inadequately resourced by the Treasury to carry out their mandates.
The president’s attack on the treasury is not the first of its kind as there has been a cold war rumored to be taking place between the presidency and the finance Minister. It was argued that this same political rift between the two institutions led to the sudden sack of former minister Nhlanhla Musa Nene.
Zuma’s attack on Gordhan is expected to heighten the tensions between his backers and the Treasury in the run-up to the December elective conference of the ANC.
The ANC and its two main wings- the ANCYL and ANCWL have long supported President Jacob Zuma against the finance Minister Gordhan who they have on several occasions, called for his immediate resignation as they equally see him as a stumbling block to implementing projects favoured by the president, including the nuclear-build programme.
Reliable reports from the ANC and COPE indicated that President Jacob Zuma is likely to reshuffle his cabinet any moment from now. While BuzzSouthAfrica is not certain about the main target of the reshuffle, news making the rounds had it that the main target would be Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, with whom Zuma had crossed swords over several thorny issues since last year.
If that happens, Gordhan’s removal could do more harm than good to South Africa’s dwindling economy and could possibly replicate the market reaction in December 2015 when Zuma fired respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with a little-known lawmaker before appointing Gordhan four days later after pressure from party officials and businessmen.
Sources that attended the ANC lekgotla’s three-day meeting confirmed this saying Zuma’s attack could have been in preparation for the changes he wants to make at the Treasury.These changes are likely to be elaborated on in discussion documents at the ANC’s policy conference in June.
While one source said President Jacob Zuma could be “preparing the ground” for removing the minister or his deputy, another said the issue that emerged strongly was that SA was a developmental state and Zuma argued that developmental programmes and projects had to be prioritised.
A ‘political package’ was put together by the ANC to bring about a “radical SA economic transformation”, which relates to the structure of the economy and to ownership,” the source said.
“It’s not just the South African Treasury that would say there is no money, it’s a global thing. The Treasury has to protect the fiscus and it’s their job, but it becomes a problem when there is not an understanding that there is a political package that needs to be funded.”
The discussions at the governing party’s lekgotla were expected to be forwarded into the Cabinet lekgotla, which started on Wednesday.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told reporters ahead of the lekgotla that it would focus on the economy. Discussions would include looking at progress with the implementation of the nine-point plan and the infrastructure development plan.