'Des was simply the best for finance job'

23 February 2016 - 03:05 By Natasha Marrian

President Jacob Zuma has said that David "Des" van Rooyen was the most "highly qualified" finance minister he had ever appointed. Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the presidential press corps yesterday, Zuma defended his decision to appoint Van Rooyen in December, saying people had assumed that he just "woke up one day" and decided to give him the job.Zuma's axing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, and his appointment of Van Rooyen, a little-known MP, caused an unprecedented backlash. The reaction of the markets, high-level interventions by businessmen and politicians, and the precipitous fall of the rand caused Zuma to reappoint Pravin Gordhan to the post he had held from 2009 to 2014.Zuma said Van Rooyen, a former MK member, was his "comrade" and was "more qualified" than any other minister he had appointed to the post.Turning to Gordhan's Budget speech tomorrow, Zuma said it was taking place under difficult circumstances. The Budget was a product of "very good" discussions in the government and cost-cutting in addition to that announced in his State of the Nation speech would be revealed.Zuma said companies should not retrench employees during such difficult periods as this and labour should be careful in making wage demands. Business and labour should be aware of the effect of their actions on the economy and should work together to save jobs, he said.He touched on land claims, and whether it was correct for claims to be allowable only from 1913, when the dispossession laws were enacted. Land was at the root of the massive challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. "You can make the rand as strong as you want; it won't help [resolve the land issue]."..

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