Johannesburg - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the ruling African National Congress is assured of about 60 percent support in next year’s election and he doesn’t need to take populist measures in his budget to win votes for the party.
“We don’t have to engage in that kind of conduct in order to attract votes,” he said in an interview in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“Over the years we have had programmes in the place which appealed to different constituencies.”
Gordhan presented his mid-term budget in Parliament on Wednesday that pledged to cut perks for government ministers, provincial premiers and mayors, including on transport, housing and entertainment.
The comments were met with cheers by lawmakers and welcomed by labour unions and opposition parties, who have criticised government leaders for excessive spending.
The ANC has won every election since the first multiracial one in 1994 with more than 60 percent of the vote, but it is facing challenges next year from a raft of new parties, including a breakaway faction led by former youth leader Julius Malema.
The mid-term budget is a “pre-election one,” because it aims to curb wasteful spending and makes no mention of higher taxes, AJ Jansen van Nieuwenhuizen, a tax partner at Grant Thornton in Johannesburg, said in an e-mailed statement.
“This is a very politically targeted budget with initiatives announced that will resonate with the larger voting public.”
Gordhan, 64, was elected in December to the ANC’s national executive council, the top decision-making body of the ruling party.
The ANC appeals to a range of voters because of its spending on welfare grants for the poor, affirmative action policies that have helped fuel a growing black middle class and favourable taxes for businesses, Gordhan said.
“For the large number of people in the lower income ranks and the poverty ranks, we’ve had the social grants that have made a huge difference in their lives and people appreciate the fact that it is supporting them,” he said.
“The investments we made in education, housing, health, are all part of that 57% of social wage that we commit to South Africans as part of both making people comfortable now, but overcoming the legacies as well.”
Gordhan said he will introduce a bill in Parliament on Friday to subsidise wages for new entrants to the labour market, a programme that’s been opposed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
The federation called the proposed law an “attack on the security of employment of workers” in an e-mailed statement on October 16.
“Within the government and the ANC broadly we have a set of policies which is consistent with what the ANC is, which is a broad church,” Gordhan said.
“At this point in time we will do what we have to do to make sure that the economy grows and we run a good, tight fiscal ship.”
National and provincial elections in South Africa are set to take place by July next year.
Gordhan said it’s too early to say whether he will remain in his post after the vote. - Bloomberg News