EDITORIAL: Gigaba gives Ramaphosa a chance to jettison perceptions of passivity
Unlike one of his predecessors in the Treasury, Malusi Gigaba is not going to fall on his own sword.
Just more than three weeks after Nhanhla Nene left his post as finance minister, having owned up at the Zondo commission to undisclosed meetings with the Gupta family, President Cyril Ramaphosa has to decide what to do about the home affairs minister, who is accused of much worse.
To say Gigaba has had a rather colourful career in the government would be an understatement. His personal life has also occupied more than its fair share of attention. The latter part is something for him and his family to be concerned about.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s finding on his behaviour while representing the country is what should be of concern to the president. This may be a good time to reaffirm what the constitution says about the role and responsibilities of ministers. When they are appointed, they are required to swear that they will, among other things, obey and uphold the supreme law of the land.
Gigaba’s star rose inordinately during the Zuma administration of former president Jacob Zuma, moving from home affairs to public enterprises, and after one of those famous reshuffles, he was wasbriefly finance minister.
Mkhwebane could not be any clearer in her determination that Gigaba failed to do that, and also violated the Executive Code of Ethics. She gave Ramaphosa 14 days to act against him. It’s hard to think of any reasons why he should disregard or challenge that ruling, like his predecessor Jacob Zuma did when the previous public protector ruled on his own disrespect for the constitution.
Gigaba’s star rose inordinately during the Zuma administration, moving from home affairs to public enterprises, and after one of those famous reshuffles, he was briefly finance minister.
His appointment as public enterprises minister coincided with the times most associated with the Gupta family getting keys to the chests of SA’s biggest state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The degree of the mismanagement is only being exposed now with devastating testimony in the Zondo commission into state capture.
Gigaba is alleged to have littered the boards of SOEs with Gupta family associates and given them preferential treatment when they sought SA citizenship.
In its report on state capture, the Public Affairs Research Institute attributed the rise of the Guptas’ influence in SOEs to his term in office, which started in 2010.
He restructured boards, which then became broadly representative of “Gupta interests”, the institute’s research report titled “Betrayal of the Promise: How the Nation was Stolen” found.
When Zuma made Gigaba finance minister late in 2017, after the firing of Pravin Gordhan, it sparked a decline in the rand as investors worried he had been put there to push projects favouring the Guptas.
With an entourage of “advisers”, he was catapulted to the helm of one of the state’s key portfolios under a massive cloud.
He will go down in history as the minister who increased VAT for the first time in more than two decades, an announcement he made in the February 2018 budget, shortly before he was shifted back to home affairs. Between serving as public enterprises and finance minister, Gigaba languished in home affairs, where he tinkered with travel regulations and allegedly pushed through the Guptas’ SA citizenship — something he vehemently denies.
In June 2017 he told parliament he did this because of the family’s contribution to the economy. His role in the Fireblade debacle, however, resulted in what should have been a death blow to his cabinet career. The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that he had lied under oath on the matter — this ruling was confirmed by the Constitutional Court this week.
Gigaba will most likely try to take Mkhwebane’s report on judicial review, further delaying his inevitable departure from the executive.
The president cannot allow this to drag on.
After months where he was accused of being rather passive and “ruling by inquiry”, recent steps to clean up the National Prosecutions Authority have gone a long way to reversing that perception.
On Thursday, he finally fired Tom Moyane, whom various witnesses in the Nugent commission implicated in the weakening of the SA Revenue Service.
Gigaba has given Ramaphosa another opportunity to show he is not afraid to make the decisions needed to deliver on his promise of clean governance.