Van Rooyen was most qualified for finance minister job - Zuma

President Jacob Zuma. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma has told journalists why he appointed his 'trained finance and economic comrade' David van Rooyen to the critical portfolio.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister David van Rooyen was the best qualified candidate to serve as South Africa’s finance minister, President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

“That thing caused such a havoc. It caused such havoc and people think Zuma just woke up one day and and took a decision. Some say he was told by some people [to appoint Van Rooyen as finance minister in December],” Zuma told delegates at the inaugural meeting of the Presidential Press Corps in Pretoria.

“You know Van Rooyen is my comrade, MK [Umkhontho we Sizwe] for that matter – where I come from. He’s a trained finance and economic comrade, more qualified than any minister I have ever appointed there, in the finance issue. Imagine if I had appointed a fellow who looks after cattle at Nkandla as finance minister?”

Zuma said that “heads or tails” no one would win the debate.

In December 2015, Van Rooyen was removed as finance minister just four days after his appointment to the critical portfolio by Zuma and moved to the Cogta portfolio. Van Rooyen was subsequently replaced by respected former finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

Gordhan, who was South Africa’s finance minister between 2009 and 2014, had been replaced as finance minister by Nhlanhla Nene who was axed by Zuma in December to make way for Van Rooyen.

Nene’s removal from the finance portfolio sent shock waves across the country and saw the rand plunging to new lows as market jitters in the financial sector sank in following the news.

Van Rooyen was the whip of Parliament’s standing committee on finance, and also served as whip of the economic transformation cluster.

Budget speech
On Monday, Zuma told the Presidency’s summit with senior journalists and correspondents at the Union Buildings that Gordhan’s budget speech to Parliament this week came at a difficult economic period.

“This budget represents very good discussions that have taken place within government and different sectors. It’s being presented under very difficult conditions. You must also agree that it’s been a number of years that we have been presenting budgets that are not presented when the economy is thriving and booming,” said Zuma.

“It has been quite a difficult process, particularly this time around. It looks like there has been some bubbles globally, economically that have not helped what was beginning to be the light at the end of the tunnel. The situation is a bit unstable and therefore the exercise is to produce a budget that is balanced.”

Media
The Presidential Press Corps forum, chaired by chief operations officer in the Presidency Lakela Kaunda, is seeking to foster regular interaction between the highest office in the land and the country’s media personnel.

“Our view is that the reporting should be as close as possible to accuracy. Even if you make your own analysis, at least the facts should be as close as possible to the facts. We then thought we should interact,” said Zuma.

Journalists from the country’s main media houses, including print and broadcasters, attended Monday’s meeting. – African News Agency (ANA)

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