A budget message bigger than the empty suit delivering it
With key reformist initiatives, it spoke to a narrative that is gaining steam within the ANC and society
Why did the rand strengthen and ratings agencies give the thumbs-up to the national budget delivered by Malusi Gigaba, the Finance minister, last Wednesday? It certainly wasn’t because of anything that this empty suit did by himself.
On the morning that he delivered the speech the press was heavy with news that three judges of the high court had found that he had lied under oath. The court also found that Gigaba violated the Constitution.
The judgment follows a court battle launched by Fireblade Aviation, owned by the Oppenheimer family, in November 2016 against the Department of Home Affairs and others. In his capacity as Home Affairs minister, Gigaba had agreed to grant permission to the Oppenheimers to run a seven-star private airport terminal. The Guptas came along, dragging their favourite poodle, Duduzane Zuma, along with them, and Gigaba swiftly changed his mind and withdrew his permission for the Oppenheimers to run their business.
Gigaba has form in working for the Guptas. In many ways he is like Ace Magashule, the ANC secretary-general who said a few weeks ago that the Guptas were “good businesspeople”. Of course they are: they employ his son.
The Guptas received South African citizenship on Gigaba’s watch at Home Affairs. When they started their television operation Home Affairs employees were sent to India to fast-track their employees’ visas.Gigaba’s legal adviser at Public Enterprises regularly escorted chief executives of state-owned enterprises to Gupta premises for meetings where they were told that they must “work with” the notorious family and its lieutenants.
If you don’t believe me ask Brian Dames, the former Eskom chief executive officer, who told parliament last year about exactly such a meeting. Or ask the former acting CEO at SA Airways, Vuyisile Kona. Kona was offered R500,000 in a paper bag by a Gupta brother. He rejected it.
The reason this mountain of evidence of state capture involving Gigaba was ignored by the markets was because the Finance minister is exactly what so many have suspected he is: an empty suit.
He may have been standing at the podium last week. He may have opened his mouth and moved it up and down for the entire time. He may have told us that “we gonna be allllllllllright” like Kendrick Lamar said, but at the end of the day we know that he is a puppet of the Guptas.The budget that Gigaba was put at Treasury by Jacob Zuma to deliver would have been very different to the one he actually delivered last Wednesday. The Zuma-Gupta budget would have had billions set aside for a nuclear build programme, for example. Not a word of that nonsense in this budget. It was not his budget. He merely delivered it as he walked to the gallows.The Zuma-Gupta empire is collapsing. Zuma is out. No sign could say “defeat” louder than Zuma’s rambling interview with the SABC on February 14. With his son and his friends literally on the run from the Hawks, Zuma raged and raged against the dissipation of his power. He seemed rattled: alone, incoherent, rambling and unable to marshal his thoughts into one central idea.
The Guptas are now fugitives from the law. Their business empire is collapsing at every level. The Bank of Baroda is running for the hills. They cannot transact. They cannot hide their ill-gotten gains. The Hawks have developed (some) teeth. The National Prosecuting Authority is shedding the influence of the malignant Zuma stooge, Shaun Abrahams.
This, then, is what we saw last week. The country and the ratings agencies are already looking beyond the Zuma criminal syndicate. We, the people, are going to be all right. The budget, with all that’s wrong with it, continues the key reformist initiatives led by Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe within the ANC.
That narrative is gaining steam within the governing party and society. The tide is turning and that’s why the message of the budget – crafted by National Treasury officials more than Gigaba – was bigger than the compromised man who delivered it.
History is catching up with those who have made a mockery of our democracy these past few years. Their kingpin, Jacob Zuma, is headed to court on various charges. Meanwhile, as they say in the ANC, siyaqhuba – we, the people, are moving on.