Open letter to the ‘super-suit without substance’, Minister Malusi Gigaba

JOHANNESBURG — Consternation would have struck many a South African when President Jacob Zuma earlier this year reshuffled his Cabinet and replaced the respected Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan with a one Mr Malusi Gigaba. The latter, of course, has become synonymous with disastrous family travel policies while doing his stint at Home Affairs. It’s also emerged in recent days, that Gigaba bulldozed through the Guptas’ South African citizenship, despite previous government officials rejecting their applications. But it is his total lack of qualifications to do the country’s top Treasury job that should have many a South African being left sleepless at night. But I guess at least the only thing he has going for him is a superb dress sense, as succinctly pointed out by Errol Horwitz below in this open letter. – Gareth van Zyl

By Errol Horwitz*

Dear Minister Gigaba:

I am not one to gloat at the misfortune of others, and more so, because of the position you find yourself as South Africa’s finance minister. I suspect had you realised you would have to contend with the country’s severe economic downward spiral, compounded by leaked Gupta emails, you would have declined the appointment, and asked to be recycled to a more sedate position such as the Parks and Recreation Portfolio.

Many believe that you lacked the credentials for the finance portfolio. The DA’s shadow minister of finance, David Maynier, commenting on your appointment called you “a suit without substance”. It so happens I like your fashionable dress sense, as it is a reminder of a genteel time of stovepipe pants and blue suede shoes, when men paid homage to the idea that “clothes maketh the man”. You are to be commended for your commitment in not only perpetuating, but also adding substance to the phrase. Having said that your penchant for designer suits does nothing to detract from your unreadiness for prime time.

Minister Malusi Gigaba briefs Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa ahead of his visit to the USA, 18 Apr 2017.

In your defence, David Maynier’s characterisation that you are simply a “suit” was unfair and disingenuous. You are, in fact,  a “super-suit”- a fashionista sporting ultimate de rigeur.

If the criteria for your selection as finance minister was simply a “suit” issue, you would be the beau of the ANC government, and beyond as well.

Malusi, there you have it –  an A+ grade for de rigeur, but regrettably in the words of Maynier clearly “without substance” to competently serve as finance minister. I cannot speak for Maynier, but one can reasonably conclude his reasons to include one or more of the following:

As you have probably learned in your new position you serve as the cabinet-level architect of South Africa’s financial and budgetary policy. Tough job for which degree education of the highest quality in the areas of economics, finance or related fields are essential. In addition meaningful working experience in fields related to finance is also essential. You have no relevant educational background and zero experience. What you did have going for you is what is euphemistically termed political capital. This you have acquired through personal relationships with key ruling party figures, alleged association with the politically connected Gupta family, and a reputation for political and ideological unwavering reliability.

I don’t think I have to point out that your lack of relevant educational background, zero experience and questionable political capital is cause for concern for the likes of investors and rating agencies. Consider the fact that Moody’s recently downgraded the country’s long-term foreign and local currency debt to one notch above junk status. It did so despite your meeting with Moody’s to persuade the agency otherwise. Have you considered whether downgrade would have occurred if the highly respected and admired Pravin Gordhan was still finance minister? Not likely, but I have – Moody’s would have left its previous rating in place.

To make matters worse Gupta leaked emails highlight your role in placing Gupta-friendly associates in key positions at state entities during your tenure as Minister of Public Enterprises. As you know the emails do have a catalytic effect inasmuch as the EFF wasted no time in laying a criminal charge against you. No need to lose sleep, however, as criminal charges against cabinet ministers are swept by law enforcement under the rug to collect dust.

I am hoping against hope that after reading this letter you will see the error of your ways and resign. On reflection, however, I think I should repress my eagerness, because next in line will likely be another Gupta crony – the superlatively inconsequential Des van Rooyen. Whatever you decide it will still be a no-win situation for the country. This is so, because you, like Van Rooyen, have no understanding of the irreparable damage you and your comrades in government have wrought upon the economy.

Malusi, I will not be offended if you decide not to respond to this letter. Rather your time would be better spent in poring over ‘An Introduction to Economics and Finance for Dummies’ authored by Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas. Hopefully, this will be a learning experience, but truth be told I am not holding my breath.

  • Errol Horwitz was a political activist in the 60’s, and returned to South Africa a few years ago, after residing abroad for more than three decades.
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