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Opinion

Only the truth will set credibility-wreck Gigaba free

02 July 2017 - 00:04 By peter bruce

Intimidation works, in a way. It makes you realise who you love. It makes you choose. I was in a coffee bar last Thursday when I got a call to say a crowd of people wearing Black First Land First T-shirts had gathered outside my home and were demanding to speak to me.
My heart sank. I had that morning written an account of a particularly vicious Gupta-inspired attack on me in my regular column in Business Day. The BLF crowd was there because of my column, I was sure. 
I went home and they quickly and loudly confirmed my suspicion. They were there to defend black people, the Guptas, from racist, land-thieving white monopoly capitalist scum like me.
How depressing. They were there for about four hours. I need to thank my colleagues Tim Cohen and Karima Brown for coming to support me.
There was no violence directed at me, although the movement has tweeted it is "not finished" with me.
We can deduce that the damage the Gupta family has done to the national finances might now begin to extend to the very freedoms the struggle against apartheid was fought for in the first place.We're a vocal people. We demand the freedom to speak. I do. So does the BLF. That's our way. Trying to stop South Africans from speaking is barbaric. We have a chance to build a fair and prosperous democracy here for the first time ever and we can only do that if all of us can speak.
The protest outside my home coincided with the start of the ANC national policy conference, a much more important event but related through the Guptas. The family has people defending it on the streets and in the highest offices in the land.
Most tragically, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has tried - and by now already failed - to shake suspicions that he is beholden to the Guptas. Now that he has the hardest job of trying to breathe growth into the economy, he must regret ever having got involved.
But it may be too late. His credibility is a mess. He has been central (although not always, I suspect, wittingly, initially) to State Capture from the start.
The difference between Gigaba, though, and, say, Mosebenzi Zwane is that Gigaba takes his instructions more directly from President Jacob Zuma, not the Guptas.
And he follows orders. It was those orders when he was public enterprises minister that led to him putting Gupta proxies on the boards of major state-owned companies. It was an order when he was home affairs minister and overruled his department to grant the Guptas speedy citizenship.And it'll be orders at the National Treasury if the Guptas ever get a banking licence.
Gigaba called on the business sector at the policy conference on Friday to work with the government to get growth going. But he can't have it both ways. He can't turn a blind eye to the conspiracy to capture the state and rally investors to his side at the same time. Something, his ambition, has to give. He has to tell the truth. He has tried to insinuate recently that he kept a Gupta proxy out of the chair at Transnet but it didn't happen that way. He proposed the proxy and the cabinet turned him down.
Only the truth will set Gigaba free and I'm still naive enough to think he has the courage to tell it. Our country is at stake. The Treasury has to raise, every single week, about R11-billion in domestic debt to finance the budget. That money is lent to it by local institutions (like Absa). It raises billions more in foreign currency bond auctions once or twice a year.
Institutions don't easily lend money like that to people they don't trust. The less they trust you, the more they charge you. Gigaba cannot lower the cost of the debt he is forced to raise until he can decisively break with the Zupta conspiracy.
In the meantime his deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi, will be no help. Buthelezi's first utterances upon replacing Mcebisi Jonas were to try to calm fears about radical economic transformation by saying it was merely another name for inclusive growth. That withering insight has been followed in the past few days with a strong assertion of faith in the independence of the Reserve Bank and, almost immediately, an attack on its core policy of inflation targeting.That's the conspiracy back in play, in case you hadn't spotted it.
Inflation would devastate the poor but what the conspiracy wants is easier and cheaper money. In other words, drop interest rates and forget about inflation. A recipe for disaster that Gigaba will spend the entire policy conference this weekend trying to avoid. And there's the rub. He should confront it head-on and stop dancing around the difficult bits to protect his career...

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