Following the surprise axing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on Wednesday, there has been a large outcry from the public, media and analysts, who believed President Jacob Zuma’s decision could push the country into economic “junk” status.
During his political career Zuma has faced a litany of accusations and even charges of corruption, which were eventually dropped.
The biggest corruption accusations, aside from the R246m upgrade to his private Nkandla homestead, concerned his alleged involvement in public enterprises and his role in their apparent downfall.
Columnist Max du Preez previously called Zuma a “one-man wrecking ball”.
Here are quotes from seven analysts and opinion pieces on how Zuma’s axing of Nene has impacted the country and its economy.
1) The Institute for Security Studies’ Judith February writing for the Daily Maverick
“[The] Treasury and the Ministry of Finance were the final vestiges of legitimacy and credibility within our governance system. They held the line against a maverick and dangerous populism and nepotism within the [African National Congress] and from Zuma himself, in particular. Our president, after all, has a very thin understanding of economic policy and it was always a relief there were those more capable able to deal with these aspects of governance.
“The strength of Treasury and the Finance Ministry was what has always stood between us and a real economic crisis. It is Team Treasury and the Finance Ministry that has held the line amidst weak and often corrupt governance…
“It seemed perhaps unlikely in an economic climate of such difficulty Zuma would be reckless enough to play fast and loose with the country’s future and fire Nene. Yet, he has done exactly that. And so, if we never knew it before, we need to acknowledge we are at the mercy of ‘strong man politics’ and a president who will do whatever it takes to protect his own interests and those of his cronies and friends, no matter what the resulting fall-out means for the country.”
2) Rand Daily Mail editor Ray Hartley
“In Zuma we have a president who simply doesn’t give a damn. He wants to spend and the finance ministry must find ways to do so… What all this points to is the beginning of the end of the treasury holding the line on spending.
“…As of this evening, Zuma is totally unchecked when it comes to government spending. What could possibly go wrong?”
3) News24 editor-in-chief Andrew Trench
“Those rating agencies about to consider whether to label our economy ‘junk’ have been given a wake-up only our president could have delivered. For this we must applaud you loud enough to deafen the shrill shrieks of those who do not understand [Zuma].
“…. Brave leader, we must thank you for not offering any explanation for your decision. We see this as your commitment to free speech because by not telling us why you do things you allow – dare I say, permit – us to speculate and consider the motives for your, no doubt, wise move.
4) Ralph Mathekga, independent political analyst to The Midday Report host Stephen Grootes
“President Zuma’s administration was already running to the headwinds when it comes to credibility, because of perceptions of corruption. Nhlanhla Nene was considered to be the last line of defence when it comes to protecting the public purse.”
5) Ranjeni Munusamy – Daily Maverick associate editor
“To axe a finance minister unexpectedly as the year draws is simply bizarre and perilous to the country’s fiscal health.
“But this was not a strategic decision. It was an illogical, irrational decision for which South Africa will pay dearly.
“For Zuma, it is another accomplishment in his mission to completely capture the state and will ensure unwavering loyalty from those who serve at his pleasure. There will be no defiance in cabinet ever again.”
6) In a postscript of the Financial Mail editorial
“The decision to replace a respected finance minister with a junior official with so little explanation suggests a thoughtless disregard for the country’s economic predicament and endangers SA’s fiscal probity.
“David van Rooyen may turn out to be an inspired choice who will guard treasury with the vigour and fortitude of his predecessors, and we wish him the best of luck. But his prospects are bleak and the circumstances of his appointment make his job more difficult. He has a huge mountain to climb.”
7) Alec Hogg, editor and publisher of BizNews
“His firing of respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene sends a clear message to members of Zuma’s political party, his fellow citizens and the world in general: it is Zuma alone who makes the rules and if he wants to plunder the public purse, get used to it.
“As with [apartheid leader PW] Botha, with last night’s action Zuma is no longer even pretending to run a democratic movement in a democratic country. You’re either with him – and all the future risk that entails – or you’re out. But this time he has miscalculated. Badly.” News24