Johannesburg - A familiar face will be presenting next February’s budget speech after President Jacob Zuma once again deployed Pravin Gordhan into the post of Finance Minister, just days after ousting Nhlanhla Nene in favour of the relatively unknown David van Rooyen.
The market has, so far, reacted positively to Zuma’s announcement, with the rand clawing back some of the losses it made after hitting new record lows following Wednesday night’s axing of Nene.
Gordhan is a familiar face to market watchers and economists, having led one of SA’s most vital ministries between May 2009 and May 2014, when he was deployed as Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Two weeks after he was appointed finance minister, SA went 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.
Before taking over from Trevor Manuel as finance minister, Gordhan was the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service.
According to his official biography, he holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy from the Durban-Westville University and was involved in politics in the late 1960s.
During the 1980s, Gordhan took part in the Natal Indian Congress call to boycott elections. He also organised and led the Student Movement and Civic Structures during the 1970s and 1980s, participated in the ANC’s underground structures for four years and was detained three times by the apartheid government.
Gordhan, born on April 12, 1949, took part in talks at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) in 1990 and was co-chairman of the Transitional Executive Council which prepared the country for the elections between 1991 and 1994. He also participated in drafting the White Paper on Local Government which laid the foundation for developing Local Government Authorities.
Before joining the government, with his first posting as MP in 1994, he worked as a pharmacist at the King Edward VII Hospital in Durban between 1974 and 1981.
Gordhan has a Doctorate of Commerce honoris causa from the University of South Africa, which he was awarded in May 2007, a a Doctorate of Law honoris causa from the University of Cape Town, awarded in 2007, and a DTech in Business Administration from the Free State Central University of Technology, awarded in March 2009.
However, his time as a politician has not always been without incident as he was head of the revenue service when a special investigative unit was set up - a unit that has recently been alleged to have been rogue.
Gordhan has rejected “unwarranted aspersions on my integrity” and insisted the establishment of the intelligence unit had been entirely legal. “Let me state that I have never approved, as commissioner of Sars, of any illegal activities,” he wrote in a 13-point statement in May.
In June, a policeman assigned to protect Gordhan was shot dead in an apparent failed hijacking in Gauteng. He was also in charge of the purse strings when Zuma’s Nkandla homestead was upgraded.
In his announcement on Sunday night, Zuma said Gordhan, in his new role, will seek to stimulate more inclusive growth and accelerate job creation while continuing to stabilise debt.
He will also promote prudence with public funds and stick to a spending ceiling, said the president.