Cape Town 181020 Tito Mboweni NEC Member & Finance Minister keynote speaker at the Kadar Asmal Memorial lecture in Mowbray Campus Cape Peninsula University of Technology CPUT Photographer : Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Years ago, when Trevor Manuel was our finance minister he started a campaign called, Tips for Trevor. It was aimed at getting South Africans to share their ideas on the national budget, and quickly became popular.

Manuel took the advice and made a point every year of addressing some of the ideas people shared with him in his Budget speech.

Almost 20 years later, our new finance minister, Tito Mboweni, is embracing technology to talk to us.

Late on Friday night he tweeted: “Let us do something unusual which will annoy the Establishment. If you were Minister of Finance, what would you announce on Wednesday next week? It is time for the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS). Over to you. Don’t tell the Establishment about this tweet!”

With those few words, Mboweni told us how he wanted us to see him - confident, independent, open to new ideas and having a sense of humour. But it told us something more Mboweni wanted to be seen as being on our side.

Make no mistake, he is acutely aware of his public image and works hard to ensure he determines how people view him. Years ago, when he was Reserve Bank governor, he insisted he only be photographed when he was in his office or speaking at the podium. He took offence when photographers clicked while he ate or wiped sweat from his face.

With only days away from the Budget, you can’t blame Mboweni for trying to gain our confidence. He is our seventh finance minister in nine years and was appointed about two weeks before the speech needed to be delivered in Parliament. It doesn’t get more difficult than that.

What’s more, the numbers won’t help him. South Africa is already spending more money than we earn in taxes. Two of our three major sources of taxes, people and companies, are taking strain which means there could be even less taxes collected than we had hoped for.

As for the third, VAT, we will only know on Wednesday how effective the higher rate has been.

So right now, Mboweni doesn’t have much to keep us happy. He wants us to believe he is a nice guy who has our best interests at heart.

And, for now, we will believe his version.

* Aakash Bramdeo is the editor of the Sunday Tribune.