Johannesburg - A new finance minister may be on the cards as Pravin Gordhan contemplates retirement.
“I will be discussing that with the family over this break,” Gordhan said in an interview this week.
The respected cabinet member will turn 65 in April, when his five-year term as finance minister will end anyway ahead of the 2014 poll. However his words suggest he will not be seeking a second term and will therefore not be following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Trevor Manuel, who became one of the longest-standing finance ministers in the world.
Though Gordhan is now hitting retirement age, it is unlikely the busy 64-year-old will retreat from the workforce.
“Retire means you give up one thing and you do something else,” he said. “I’ve worked all my life. The age doesn’t really matter.”
While a return to the finance portfolio seems to be out of the question, the pharmacist-turned-politician did not rule out a return to government or the public sector in some other role.
“That decision is partly personal, partly political,” he said, before cautiously turning to the party line: “The ANC will decide.”
Gordhan is also a member of the ruling party’s national executive committee.
He was appointed minister by President Jacob Zuma in 2009 and prior to that headed the South African Revenue Service for 10 years.
From 1994 to 1998 he was an MP and focused in the main on the implementation of the constitution in 1996.
A widely respected finance minister, both at home and abroad, the Durban-born man has presided over a rocky period in the history of the South African economy, through no fault of his own.
Two weeks after he was appointed finance minister by Zuma in 2009, the country entered into a recession, its first in 17 years. Though that recession was relatively short-lived, the economy has remained sluggish ever since with growth levels well below par, particularly for a developing nation.
The country has lived through its own Arab Spring in the form of the labor unrest that has hit the mining sector badly. Last year was particularly tough with strikes in the sector costing R15 billion in lost output.
Corruption has hit alarming highs. Infighting in the government and the ruling party is bitter, while Gordhan’s boss – Zuma – is becoming increasingly adept at weathering shameful scandals, most of which are a serious drain on the public purse.