The ANC’s head of economic transformation, Enoch Godongwana, has challenged senior party leaders, including Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu, to produce evidence that business manipulated global markets to undermine President Jacob Zuma.
This came after Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and replaced him with a relatively unknown MP, David van Rooyen.
“I don’t have information to suggest there was manipulation of the economy to undermine President Zuma,” said Godongwana, who is also a member of the ANC’s national executive committee.
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian last week, Zulu concurred with other ANC leaders who believed business manipulated the markets to show up Zuma as a weak leader and embarrass him.
Although Zulu later said she had been quoted out of context, she also told the M&G at the time: “Manipulation happens all over … Those who supported us before are now our competitors. Money is money. They have the capacity. This is not 1994. They are all hungry for something. They will use everything they have,” she said.
In an interview this week, Godongwana disagreed with Zulu and other senior ANC leaders and challenged them to bring evidence to the table that the markets were manipulated to undermine Zuma.
“Maybe comrades will help us with that when we meet in appropriate forums of the ANC,” he said.
He added he did not want to debate the matter in public before it was discussed internally. Zulu’s remarks sparked a debate within and outside the ruling party.
Following the M&G’s report, former finance minister Trevor Manuel wrote an open letter to Zulu on Sunday in City Press and dismissed her claims that business did not rally behind Zuma’s decision to appoint Van Rooyen.
“There was no rallying against the appointment of Mr Des van Rooyen as minister of finance. In fact, the largest cross-section of commentators withheld judgment because he is so completely unknown. The few exceptions were people who knew him from Merafong [municipality],” Manuel said.
“Even I, as an MP for the period he served in Parliament from 2009 to 2014 when he was my fellow ANC member, battled to recall who he was.”
Manuel said trust had been lost in the Cabinet and between the government and the market, which had prompted Zulu to hit back.
In response to Manuel, Zulu told Media24: “I don’t agree. I completely don’t agree. I don’t even think trust has been broken in my view, because I don’t think it can be broken by one unfortunate event. Trust is something we must all build on collectively. One makes mistakes, but the mistake was corrected.”
Godongwana has rejected the assertion of the credit-rating agency Fitch that the reappointment of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister did not restore confidence in the government’s effectiveness, and has left questions about the direction of economic policy.
Godongwana said: “I don’t think it is correct. It is a misinterpretation of what is happening. It is an incorrect assessment of Gordhan’s performance. He [Gordhan] will tackle all issues that they are worried about. He has proven himself when he served as finance minister between 2009 and 2014.”
He said the policies of the ANC were well known and Gordhan would be pursuing them.
“There is no change in economic policies. What is at play here is the management of economic policy. From the ANC’s perspective, our economic policies are sound. We have confidence in Gordhan to pursue those policies,” Godongwana said.
Youth leader attacks Manuel for protecting capitalists
ANC Youth League national executive committee member Ndumiso Mokako this week accused former finance minister Trevor Manuel of protecting business at the expense of the working class.
The letter comes as tensions in the ruling party deepen after the firing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister and the appointment of Des van Rooyen – albeit for just four days – to the key position.
This follows Manuel’s open letter to Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu in which he dismissed her claim that South African business was not supportive of President Jacob Zuma and his government.
In his open letter to Manuel, sent to the Mail & Guardian, Mokako criticised him for suggesting an “outside hand” was involved in Nene’s dismissal from his position as finance minister.
Mokako claimed business leaders protested at Van Rooyen’s appointment to protect their interests. “The reaction of business/markets especially the decline of the rand as compared to other currencies was a sign that the dominant faction of the bourgeoisie is fighting back in defence of the space and the hegemony they enjoy in it.
“Like all factions in any sphere of life, they [business] fought back with what is at their disposal through threatening to disinvest, withholding planned investments and all other tricks that will ensure that the democratically elected government retreats and finally does what will sustain their profit maximisation without any disruption.
“By all measures, this is a recipe for disaster, because we have seen it in many instances undermining the will of South Africans, in the interests of a few powerful players of the capitalist class,” Mokako wrote.
In his open letter, Manuel said business did not rally against Zuma’s decision to appoint parliamentary backbencher Van Rooyen to the post. Their “contention and disbelief”, Manuel wrote, “was never about Mr Van Rooyen, it was about the summary dismissal of Mr Nene … I have not heard any commentator interested in the economic management of South Africa raise any doubts about [Nene’s] leadership.”
Read Mokako’s full letter to Manuel online: mg.co.za/mokako