Our double dose of despair, courtesy of Zuma and his cabinet of incompetents

29 October 2017 - 00:00 By barney mthombothi

Even for a country accustomed for so long to a daily diet of dispiriting events, blatant criminality and plain stupidity in high places, the disclosure in parliament on consecutive days this week of the dire state of the economy and the horrific crime statistics came as a jolt to the system.
It was a double whammy that neatly sums up our predicament: criminals are running the show.
If the primary responsibility of a government is to protect its people, President Jacob Zuma's administration has hopelessly failed to carry it out.In many countries, this level of crime would result in the government being voted out of power.And of course the crime stats have a lot in common with the horrendous economic numbers laid bare in parliament a day later; two sides of the same coin. A thriving economy would create jobs and take people out of crime.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba tried to pretend he knew what he was talking about. But he just can't cut the mustard.Unconvinced, the markets have been unforgiving. The currency has tanked. It's now lost almost half its value against the greenback since Zuma came into office. Quite an achievement.
We'd become accustomed to the National Treasury being the guardian, the gatekeeper, of the nation's coffers. And the finance ministry was a Rolls-Royce appointment; only the best and most trusted around the cabinet table who had proved their mettle in other areas were deemed worthy of the position. They knew their stuff. They had the swagger and self-assurance that inspired public confidence that the nation's finances were in good hands. And indeed they were.
At first Zuma seemed to respect that credo, giving the job first to Pravin Gordhan and then to Nhlanhla Nene. Nene's still-unexplained axing was a turning point. Des van Rooyen was a bolt from the blue, a shock that even the forced return of Gordhan has never quite ameliorated.We will be lucky if the likes of Faith Muthambi, Nomvula Mokonyane or some other ignoramus is not allowed a stint at the till before Zuma's term is over. The president seems to be in that sort of mood. He doesn't care any more. He's going for broke, self-preservation being his only concern.The big story is obviously that the economy is in bad shape, but what makes it worse, and fuels the nation's anxiety, is that Gigaba and his team are patently incapable of getting us out of the ditch. He's out of his depth, and it shows. Running the economy is about more than simply shouting "radical economic transformation".
One shudders to think, for instance, what could have become of us had this lot been in charge of the nation's finances during the 2008 financial crisis. We could easily have ended up like Venezuela.
The current bunch are not only ignorant, they are also corrupt and at the very least they have a case to answer. Their tenancy is frankly an insult to our morality.Gigaba's deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi, for instance, left a complete and utter shambles at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa when he was chairman. The National Treasury itself has recommended that he be criminally charged for corruption and maladministration. Instead, the man has been promoted and now chairs the Public Investment Corporation, among his other responsibilities. The fox is in the henhouse.
The R50-billion hole in the economy cannot be blamed solely on the South African Revenue Service's failure to collect taxes. But there's no doubt that the decline of a once-proud organisation is partly responsible for the shortfall. Tom Moyane, the ex-jailer retrieved from retirement ostensibly to run (down) SARS, is in fact Zuma's Trojan horse to upend his enemies.

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