Zuma under pressure on economy powers

South African President Jacob Zuma is seeking advice on whether giving the economic development ministry more policy-making powers would be illegal, a local newspaper said on Sunday.

Zuma, under pressure from ally Cosatu to shift policy more towards the left, may violate the Constitution if he gives the ministry more responsibility to manage macroeconomic policy, the Sunday Times reported.

Zuma’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, would not confirm or deny the report.

”I can’t comment on that issue … But as far as the president is concerned, there is no contradiction on this issue at all,” Magwenya told Reuters.

Cosatu wants Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, a former trade unionist, to be responsible for directing macroeconomic policy.

Patel heads up one of the three ministries in the Zuma administration that will steer the economy, led by the Treasury under Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, and which also includes the National Planning Commission (NPC) under former finance minister Trevor Manuel.

Cosatu, which wants inflation targets scrapped and changes to how the central bank operates, has clashed with government over the powers given to Manuel, who they view as championing business-friendly economic policy.

The Sunday Times said Zuma had met with a Cosatu delegation last month and promised them to address the issue.

Second in charge
Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian in September that Manuel was using the NPC to position himself as the country’s ‘second in charge”.

The ANC and its alliance partners had initially understood that the NPC would ‘coordinate” government work and ensure implementation, said Dlamini. But it now looked as though Manuel wanted to develop plans for departments and give them a blueprint to implement, and ‘that would be depriving them of any opportunity to plan on their own. That, for us, is a danger,” he said.

Manuel is seeking to restore ‘what he lost” when he left the treasury: ‘He wants to be seen again as this super-minister and every minister should go to him, bow his head and say, ‘Please, Mr Manuel, can we have this?’” said Dlamini. – Reuters and Mail & Guardian Online reporter

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