Ramaphosa prepares for battle
Johannesburg - The issue of the South African Reserve Bank and the spats that followed have added to the growing headaches of President Cyril Ramaphosa both as leader of the country and the governing party.
Political analysts say the headaches add to growing calls for him to fire his Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan for Eskom’s load shedding debacle and ructions within his party.
Ramaphosa has for the first time in two years ditched the World Economic Forum (WEF) to be held in the Swiss city of Davos next week.
Instead, Ramaphosa has assigned Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to lead Team SA at the gathering.
Political analyst Xolani Dube, of the Durban-based Xubera Institute, said Ramaphosa ditched Davos to close the space for his enemies within the ANC.
He said Ramaphosa wanted to be present at the weekly meeting held by the ANC every Monday.
This is the meeting that is expected to discuss the crisis faced by Eskom and another issue that is likely to pop up is the growing calls for Gordhan to step down or be fired by Ramaphosa. It is at the same meeting that the storm created by Mboweni will be discussed.
Dube said Ramaphosa doesn’t want these issues to be discussed in a meeting chaired by his party and country deputy, David Mabuza.
Mabuza has already thrown Gordhan under the bus by revealing that together with the board of Eskom, he (Gordhan) misled Ramaphosa regarding the time frames of halting load shedding and the real problems facing the power utility.
“He is seemingly aware that he is under siege and he wants to monitor this ANC Monday meeting where the ANC meets each and every Monday.
"He cannot leave behind power to someone he no longer trusts. So why should he leave knowing there is this fresh tug-of-war between him and DD,” Dube said.
Another political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said Ramaphosa has come to realise his presidency is in a “precarious and shaky” position. Mathekga agreed with Dube that Ramaphosa does not want to give space to anyone else.
“Sometimes if you become absent in a crisis like this, somebody else begins to lead. DD (Mabuza) seems to be very much willing to lead.
"No doubt about it, he is always willing to step into that.
"So you don’t want to come back and find that things are moving so well without you.
"That's not a good thing, especially when your presidency is at stake,” he said. Mathekga added that people like Mboweni, who had added to the headache for Ramaphosa, should know that they were given their positions through the party.
As a result he said they should not “be adventurous outside the party” but instead must raise their views from within.
Mboweni’s disdain for the growing calls to nationalise the Reserve Bank has gained favour with one of KwaZulu-Natal’s leading economists, Professor Bonke Dumisa, who says the calls are informed by an understanding of how the bank operates.
Mboweni drew the ire of the ANC when he took to Twitter on Tuesday to voice his opposition to the calls. He uses the social media platform to say the 2017 decision of the Nasrec ANC conference regarding the bank was “a wrong resolution”.
But Dumisa stands with him. Dumisa said the current set-up of the bank ensures credibility and stability which is needed by investors. He also shot down suggestions that by having private shareholders, the bank was indirectly working against the aspirations of the masses.
Dumisa said it seems that the idea behind the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank is based on thinking that it operates like a retail bank and once nationalised people can approach it for business and personal loans.
“Some people say we cannot have people from outside of South Africa determining our monetary policy, which shows they really don’t understand how the bank operates.
“The shareholders at the Reserve Bank have absolutely no say on monetary policies, it is the governor of the Reserve Bank together with the board,” Dumisa said.
Dumisa added that if the country had to buy out the private shareholders who have no influence on the monetary policy, the country would have to spend money it doesn’t have on something it shouldn’t have touched in the first place. “We have to spend a lot of money to buy them off and in terms of our priorities as a country. Can we really afford that when we have so many problems like our debt to GDP ratio?” Dumisa asked.
He added there were no advantages of what the ANC was proposing, saying it can achieve nothing but create doubts about the country’s economic climate.
The Presidency issued a statement on Thursday stating Ramaphosa would not attend the WEF meeting and the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London on Monday.
“The president has taken this decision to give attention to pressing domestic priorities and preparations for the governing party and Cabinet Makgotla. “(He) was further currently engaged with preparations towards South Africa’s assumption of the chair of the AU at the 33rd AU Summit on February 9-10, 2020,” it said.
The Presidency said South Africa would be represented in Davos and London by senior government and civil society representatives led by Mboweni and International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor.