DURBAN - Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba almost got a baptism of fire in Parliament when political party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF tried to block his maiden mini budget in the Chamber yesterday (WED).
EFF MPs were infuriated over allegations linking Gigaba to state capture with the Guptas. However, Gigaba remained in his seat and chuckled with President Jacob Zuma, seated next to him, as the commotion persisted in the House.
It took Speaker Baleka Mbete almost 20 minutes to bring proceedings under control in the National Assembly when EFF members decided to stage a walkout in protest against Gigaba.
However, during his speech other opposition MPs jeered him when he spoke about the ailing State-Owned Entities including SAA and Eskom and how he planned to fix them.
There were even more jeers from the opposition when he promised that the economy would rebound in the tough economic conditions. Despite some of the jeers from the DA benches and round of applause from the ANC side on stimulating the economy, Gigaba maintained a cool head. In South Africa the ANC is the ruling political party with the DA is the main opposition party.
He stuck to his speech and only diverted at the end when he had to thank the National Treasury team and Ministers who supported him in the budget process and his work.
Although Gigaba has been a minister over the past seven years since his first appointment at public enterprises after his elevation from the deputy ministry’s position at home affairs, it was his first speech in the National Treasury.
He crunched the numbers and gave details on some of the government plans. However, at the end of his speech Gigaba was loudly applauded in the House when he thanked his predecessors Pravin Gordhan and Trevor Manuel for laying the foundation at the Treasury.
Both were in the Chamber with Gordhan in the ANC benches and Manuel in the public gallery. But the opposition jeered when he thanked Zuma for his support and guidance.
Opposition parties accused Zuma of running down the country and the economy. Even when he came to mentioning the contentious issue on nuclear Gigaba said it was Zuma who insisted that this would be done at a pace and scale that was affordable to South Africa.
But opposition MPs did not want to hear a word on the bailout of SOEs saying they were a fiscal burden. Gigaba’s performance in Parliament gave an indication of a better performance in the main Budget in February.
He did not depart significantly what has already been laid out in the past in the Treasury. He struck a balancing act and tried to address competing interests in government spending.
- BUSINESS REPORT