Minister Tito Mboweni said accepting majority/collective Cabinet decisions was like ‘swallowing a rock’. Picture: EPA-EFE/African News Agency (ANA)
Minister Tito Mboweni said accepting majority/collective Cabinet decisions was like ‘swallowing a rock’. Picture: EPA-EFE/African News Agency (ANA)

Tito Mboweni's Twitter rant raises questions about Cabinet unity

By SAMKELO MTSHALI Time of article published May 7, 2020

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Johannesburg- Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s explosive Twitter tirade on Tuesday evening about his struggles with accepting collective decisions of the Cabinet has lead to questions over whether the Cabinet was united in its decision-making process, political analysts say.

Mboweni said on Twitter that having to accept “majority/collective” decisions by the Cabinet sometimes felt “like swallowing a rock”.

He said before he voluntarily joined the government, he had been a “free man”, with no political constraints.

“Tjoooo! Free, but not free! You have to obey the majority/collective decisions! Sometimes it feels like swallowing a rock,” Mboweni posted.

He then questioned why anyone would want to be involved with politics, saying it was poorly paid work and a thankless and abusive job. “So, if you cannot swallow a rock, stay out of politics! Remember that,” Mboweni said.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said it was deeply concerning that such a senior figure in the Cabinet in charge of a critical senior portfolio that gives economic policy direction, could be as disgruntled as Mboweni.

“If your finance minister, who funds everything, is so disgruntled, you ask yourself, what is the direction of this Cabinet?” Mathekga said.

He added that Mboweni had been breaking ranks within the Tripartite Alliance from as far back as when he was the governor of the Reserve Bank, when he had several confrontations with labour unions, who attacked his monetary policies.

“It could also be that maybe the ANC is opening up. It doesn’t mean that Mboweni doesn’t understand the decision-making processes of the ANC, it doesn’t mean he just wakes up finding them strange. It actually means that the ANC is also evolving in a way; some of the senior members are even willing to question if the party should stick to its traditional ways of decision-making.

“We are now seeing the frustration within the party; can the party continue to stick to its traditional ways of decision-making, because it’s now a question of the party’s traditions versus leading a modern society. Mboweni’s stance seems to say, ‘you can disagree with me but engage me’, while the traditionalists within the ANC don’t want to engage,” Mathekga said.

He said Mboweni’s outburst could not be viewed as his being on the verge of quitting the Cabinet. Instead, the outburst showed that Mboweni no longer cared about the traditional way of keeping matters within the party, was willing to speak out and break ranks, and that he seemed prepared to live with the consequences of being fired for doing so.

Imraan Buccus, a political analyst, said Mboweni’s views showed there were contending factions in the ANC. “There’s a really strong neoliberal faction. A faction that puts the markets and the economy first, and Tito Mboweni is clearly a part of that faction… It’s not surprising that there are these contending views.”

Political Bureau

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