BUSINESS DAY TV: ‘There is already evidence of political paralysis’
Daniel Silke is a political analyst.
BUSINESS DAY TV: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is back on South African soil after President Jacob Zuma ordered him to return from an investor roadshow in the UK. There’s still no explanation from the Presidency as to why Gordhan had to cut his trip short but the move has spooked the market with many speculating that Gordhan won’t be finance minister for much longer. For more detail independent political analyst Daniel Silke joins us on the line.
Daniel ... so are you surprised that no reason has been put forward for ordering the finance minister and his deputy home, or do you think the passing of Ahmed Kathrada perhaps threw a spanner in the works?
DANIEL SILKE: Yes ... I certainly think this matter has been exceptionally poorly dealt with. We’ve had a very dubious way with dealings with business from government over the last two years or so, this one really is pretty grim. The nature of the recall, the very terse worded statement, request for Pravin Gordhan to come back to SA has really created concern, it’s created rumour, it’s created, of course, uncertainty in the market place and it’s ironic that it all took place during a visit from Gordhan overseas, in which he was trying to do precisely the opposite, trying to create certainty, trying to create confidence in SA.
So something is brewing, it does look as though Pravin Gordon is weaker tonight than he was, let us say, a week ago. Unless President Zuma really finds himself now with his hands tied, there could very well be a move against him or for that matter against his deputy over the next few days or so as part of a much larger and long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle.
Yes, the parting of Ahmed Kathrada might well have delayed any announcement or perhaps put a spanner in the works of the political intrigue that is playing itself out in Luthuli House but ultimately I think we’re on the cusp of some sort of larger Cabinet reshuffle and it is a question as to whether President Zuma has enough strength in him to go through with putting an end, I suppose, to this long-standing conflict with Gordhan or whether in fact he folds to pressure and keeps Gordhan on.
BDTV: What it does is put in the spotlight clear policy pitted against politics in the South African arena. Where you talk about a Cabinet reshuffle being imminent, in your books what’s the extent of the shift that we’re potentially looking at?
DS: I suppose the key issue is whether if there is a Cabinet reshuffle and if Pravin Gordhan is replaced who will be put in his place? Will it be somebody who is seen as being equally prudent with the fiscus as Pravin Gordhan or will it be somebody who is seen as doing the bidding of special interest, vested interest groups? This is the key question.
Pravin Gordhan has said before he is not expendable, he’s said before that he is there at the behest of the president, there can be a degree of stability, it can return to SA if his replacement, if he is replaced, is indeed somebody who will follow a similar line to Pravin Gordhan. But the shenanigans surrounding his recall, the timing with of course the High Court saga today, the role of the Guptas in all of this leads to suspicion, that this matter really is more about putting patronage above policy and above SA’s special interest. And that’s I suppose the concern going forward.
BDTV: Daniel, if he has indeed or he does indeed put patronage above policy, could this deepen the rifts within the ANC? Business Day’s editorial today said we could be headed for a paralysing political crisis, do you think we could be?
DS: To a degree I think we’ve already been paralysed to some degree. President Zuma has not really been able to reshuffle his Cabinet, it’s long overdue, the factions are well drawn now, and we know more or less who they are. You have more and more senior members of the ANC speaking out against the president and so I do think that any specific actions against somebody of the stature of Gordhan will exacerbate internal tensions and conflicts. But look, this is all part of what we expected to be a fairly robust and volatile 2017 as we wait until the ANC’s leadership conference takes place and perhaps until the dust settles on which of the various factions and peaks will be in power after 2017. And I think we’re going to see a degree of both political and policy paralysis over the course of this year and the factions fighting it out around the persona of Pravin Gordhan right now and I’m afraid it doesn’t do our economy any good and it certainly doesn’t do our ability to kick-start economic growth any good as well.
BDTV: You talk about the factions, you talk about divide, the ANC’s top six have reportedly approved the removal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan that came through on ANN7 late this afternoon, are you buying that?
DS: I do think our media outlets are trying to create news rather than report news, so I’m taking with some degree of a pinch of salt some of the reports that I’ve seen throughout the day. I don’t think that any decision to remove Pravin Gordhan would receive broad consensus, even amongst the top six and I believe the NEC (national executive committee) for that matter is even more divided than ever before. So I think we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out. It is equally possible indeed that Minister Gordhan may retain his position at least for the time being.
If he retains his position, it will indicate clearly that the factions aligned against President Zuma are indeed increasingly powerful, but as this is a power play I believe it does seem likely that the president really wants to be seen to be boss, he’s protecting his own interests and he’s also defining the debate towards succession and to what kind of SA there’ll be after December 2017 and this is, I suppose, the time for him to make his move.