NO END IN SIGHT ON THE WORSENING ECONOMIC CRISIS
Many political leaders and commentators were disappointed by the Finance Minister Tito Mboweni when he tabled his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement on Wednesday. But we in AZAPO Voice were not disappointed at all.
We were not disappointed because we did not expect him to say anything different. Not that what he said was great, but he could not have said anything else. You can only really be disappointed if you were expecting something wonderful and you get something different.
Mboweni said what we all should know. As a country, South Africa is living above its means. We are spending more than what our income can afford. Our national debt is ballooning. This year alone, the country’s budget shortfall will be at least R50 billion. The consolidated national debt in 2019/20 financial year is R3 trillion. This financial year, the country will pay R204 billion to service the debt, which is increasing because we continue to spend more than what we generate.
In a nutshell, the country is in a serious economic crisis. If this spending trajectory continues, the country will be left with no option but to go, cap in hand, begging to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and ask for loans. The IMF and the World Bank have a history of destroying developing countries because of their prescriptions on how their money should be spent.
Comments by many politicians and political analysts on the mid-term budget speech expose these commentators’ ignorance of what Mboweni can actually do. Those on the left wing of the political spectrum, including labour, were united in condemning Mboweni for trying to cut the salary bill of the State. Those on the right were unimpressed with Mboweni for failing to entice huge numbers of the public servants to grab the carrot of early retirement. The government had tried to encourage public servants who were approaching retirement to take early retirement without losing their pension benefits in a bid to reduce the wage bill. However, given the limited economic opportunities in the country, many public servants who could have qualified for early retirement simply ignored the offer.
One politician accused Mboweni of failing to give a clear direction about how to grow the economy and thus create the much-needed jobs. He said Mboweni should have outlined a strategy to grow the manufacturing sector and increase the country’s exports. The expectation that Mboweni should have used his budget speech to chart a new economic recovery is the source of the disappointment of many politicians and commentators. Mboweni should be humbled by the confidence that many have in his ability to get the country out of its economic crisis. But that confidence is misplaced. As head of Treasury, Mboweni can tell us how much money will be collected. He can also state how the collected revenue would be distributed to various State departments and entities. He can also tell us how the shortfall will be covered. That is about it!
The real crisis of South Africa is that the economy is not growing fast enough to create the much needed jobs. In fact, growth forecast has been revised downward to 0.5%. The population growth rate is 1.2%, which is more than double the rate of economic growth. The net effect is that the economy is shrinking, resulting in the massive official unemployment rate of more than 29,1%, the highest in 21 years. And for the record, the actual unemployment rate is more than 40% because many job-seekers have given up looking for employment.
Mboweni has announced some austerity measures to curb government spending. This will have the opposite effect if his aim is to grow the tax base and State revenues. Just to illustrate the point, if a particular department implements the cost cutting measures and suspends all travel and workshops that are often held in hotels or country lodges, those sectors in the hospitality industry will be negatively affected and they would be forced to cut costs by retrenching their workers. Their reduced income would mean that they would pay less tax and as such, the projected tax shortfall of R50 billion will actually be more than that.
During an economic crisis, the State should spend more, of course not just for the sake of spending, but should invest in infrastructure such as new hospitals, schools and water and electrification to lubricate economic activity so that more jobs are created. This will stimulate demand as more people would have purchasing power.
But fundamentally, the government should act decisively to fight corruption and maladministration which is costing the taxpayers billions of Rands each year.
Ultimately, there is no quick fix to get out of an economic crisis. As a country, we should get better outcomes from the money we spend on education. When we have graduates who are well equipped with skills, they will be better placed to unlock the country’s potential by exploiting our natural resources for the export markets.
The focus should move away from Mboweni. We need to remove hurdles that are contributing to lower economic growth. And when the economy is humming, Mboweni will have more resources to invest in social spending such as health and education. But for now, it appears there is no vision. And where there is no vision, people perish.
ANC LEADER MANTASHE LIES TWICE IN ONE SENTENCE
Part of any revolutionary change involved the change of values from the bad and reactionary ones of living in an oppressive environment to the good and progressive ones that define freedom or liberation.
The new society entrenches the good and progressive values in all available media and spheres of life. They are taught right from kindergarten to university. In fact, these values start being transmitted at home; in the religious institutions and in business. These good and progressive value systems are what distinguishes the oppressive society from the free one.
Politicians that are public officials like Presidents, Ministers, Premiers, MECs, MPs, Mayors and all sorts of Councillors need at all times to be the exemplary carriers of these progressive values. That is because they are, or are regarded as, the political leaders and conscience of society.
Good governance and a good reputation do not seem to be requirements in the leaders of the ruling party. The worse you are, the more suitable you are deemed to be for public office. ANC Chairperson and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe is one but not the first and last example of a typical leader of the ruling party.
The “happily married” Mantashe and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni have been caught with their pants down. You generally do not expect senior citizens like them, who were supposed to be confined to their rocky chairs, to be having trousers that are loose at the waist. But they will protest in their defence that even ANC Presidents do not belt or zip their trousers. Unfortunately, those low standards should be confined to the ruling party; not society.
In the past days, Mantashe and Mboweni have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. They are said to be in a sex triangle with a 26-year “young” student. The two Ministers have not denied the happening of the transactional sex with a woman as young as their lastborn daughters. The student has revealed that Mantashe pays between R10 000 and R15 000 for a sex session, whereas Mboweni seems to benefit from his financial management skills because he is said to have kept it at a meagre R3000.
Mantashe has come out worse off in this sex scandal. The Sunday World published that Mantashe admitted to have paid R70 000 to two journalists to kill the story. That is problematic at two levels. If that admission stands, then Minister Mantashe is guilty of the crime of bribery. That should force President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire Mantashe from the Cabinet. On the other hand, Mantashe would be interfering with media freedom and its ethics.
Mantashe has taken a U-turn at a dangerously high speed. He admits that he did tell Sunday World Editor Makhudu Sefara that he (Mantashe) paid R70 000 to two journalists to kill the story. But he has now turned around and claimed that he was lying when he said all that. That is what we mean about the lying twice in one sentence. He claims he has lied, when all indications are such that he may actually be lying when he now says he lied when he made that admission to Sefara. We have no way of knowing if he would have known anything about that admission had it not been for Sefara’s public assurance that he recorded the admission conversation with Mantashe.
Sefara has said that his hands are tied because he does not have the evidence of the bribery payment and the identity of the two journalists. He said he however subjected the Sunday World journalists to a lie detector process, while he continues to persuade Mantashe to come clean because the Sunday World and its journalists have suffered reputational damage as a result of his shenanigans.
Meanwhile, the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) has met Mantashe on this saga. It is disturbing that SANEF could only ask Mantashe to do nothing more than publicly apologise for what the facts point in the direction of commission of a serious crime of bribery.
The little that is in the public space should be enough for Mantashe to voluntarily resign. What should our children learn from grandfathers who see them as sex merchandise? What good and progressive values do Mantashe and Mboweni stand for and promote in this society? Mantashe’s boss, Ramaphosa, has a responsibility to act if his much-vaunted “New Dawn” is anything to go by.
Lest we forget, the scandal-ridden Mantashe has still to satisfactorily explain the security installations by the State Capture company Bosasa at 3 of his properties in Boksburg in Gauteng, one in Cala and another in Elliot in the Eastern Cape. Bosasa employee Richard Le Roux deposed an affidavit in November 2017 detailing these security installations. He followed it up early this year with testifying at the Zondo Commission on State Capture.
As usual, Mantashe denied any knowledge of such security installations. Instead of giving evidence under oath at the Zondo Commission where the evidence came from, Mantashe went on a stroll and invited journalists to visit his properties where he showed them that there were no such security installations as suggested by le Roux. Unfortunately for him, video clips anonymously handed to News24 conclusively show Bosasa employees installing the security detail.
The dominant values publicly promoted by the politicians of the ruling party are those of corruption, State Capture, sex scandals, incompetence and maladministration. Every year the Auditor General gives the public gloomy reports of billions of Rands of irregular and under spending. The citizens are on a daily basis glued to their screens watching the unfolding Reality TV on the various Commissions, which are digging the rotten secrets of corruption.
Just check the personalities that are queuing to give evidence on corruption committed. They are by far the ruling party leaders. It follows from this fact that the ruling party is guilty of building wrong and reactionary values in the country. There is therefore another struggle that needs to be waged against the erstwhile revolutionaries for the sake of our country.
To print and read the pdf version, please click here ⇒ AZAPO Voice Volume 2 Issue Number 37
ONE AZANIA! ONE NATION!