Into the Twilight Zone as the sun sets on Jacob Zuma

29 October 2017 - 00:00

Initially, The Twilight Zone was a US TV series in the '60s. Since then it has come to mean the mental state between reality and fantasy - roughly where South Africa is at the moment.
Think about it. On Wednesday, President Jacob Zuma's finance minister, Malusi Gigaba, gave his first medium-term budget policy statement, a rough three-year rolling assessment of our fiscal position. He had hideous news. Tax revenue, under his boss's hand-picked tax commissioner, Tom Moyane, would be R51-billion behind target this financial year. The final figure will probably be even worse.
That R51-billion is roughly the amount the government needs every 90 days to keep up repayments of its debt - for now.But on November 24, Moody's and S&P will issue their latest ratings of our debt, and after Gigaba failed to signal any prospect of turning the economy around to keep debt from rising any further, they will downgrade us further.
Gigaba tried, I believe, his best but it was not nearly enough. New downgrades will make it even more expensive to service our debt and the R550-million we pay in interest every day will rise.
Sitting close to Gigaba as he spoke was Zuma, the ultimate cause of all of this. Eyes closed, he was listening, but not to the detail. His relentless calculation is at what point he falls over. His calculation is about when his own party irreversibly turns on him. When and under what conditions does he give up?
He is a master of delay. He wants to ensure the ANC leadership election in December goes his way, that his candidate is elected to replace him. That may buy him time, but even if Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins in December, she will quickly figure out that he cannot stay on as head of the government. He is simply too destructive. His administration is even more dysfunctional than his party, which is saying something.
She will have to fire him quickly or face being in charge of the state when the country's finances collapse.
And don't too be distracted by talk of the Russians being the new guiding force behind Zuma. The Russians are way behind the Guptas. It may or may not be true that Zuma has already taken money from Vladimir Putin to ensure he places a big nuclear power order with Moscow (I've yet to see proof), but even if he has, he is incapable of making the order happen. The Treasury doesn't have the money and, in any event, civil society would stop him. Anyway, the payment will be lying untouched somewhere in an escrow account.

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