Editorial: Nene hobbled by old tusker

This is particularly the case when times are tough. 

Those in charge have been trying to keep the old bull elephant in the kraal, despite his marauding and the fact that he always puts his own interests ahead of those of the country. 

Where he has made appointments, he too often chooses cronies ahead of those who can get the job done. A stronger economy hid his poor leadership and management, not to mention his ongoing capacity to attract scandal.

But now the consequences are plain for all to see. For the first time since the advent of democracy, a finance minister has had to rope in spending and increase taxes. 

We will only know in next year’s budget how taxes will be raised, but Nhlanhla Nene is budgeting to raise an additional R12-billion next year – R44-billion over the next three years – from new taxes. 

But even while Nene is taking the knife to government spending, slicing R240-million, for instance, from government’s advertising budgets, we report in this issue of the Mail & Guardian that controversial Eskom chair Collin Matjila has diverted R43-million of the state utility’s money to the president’s buddies and his son’s business partners, the Guptas, as a sponsorship deal with their New Age newspaper.

Nene will sell some of the family silver, most notably what government owns in Vodacom, to pump an additional R20-billion into the endlessly money-hungry Eskom. 

As everyone knows, increasing electricity tariffs continue to burden a struggling economy, yet Nkandla-type largesse at the same time sees the looting of Eskom’s coffers to sponsor the bacon and eggs at Gupta business breakfasts.

The legacy of Zuma’s poor leadership is also to be seen in the incomprehensible changing of ministerial responsibilities and line functions, so much so that, in the case of the communications department, the treasury has not even been able to work out a sensible budget for it. 

The small business department is also budget-less and the economic development department increasingly appears to manage itself and do little else besides.

Nene has done a commendable job in exceedingly tough times, but the lack of political will from the ruling party and the president will frustrate the finance minister’s best efforts.

* See Nene hobbled by old tusker. 

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

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