The dollar and the rand. Picture: REUTERS, SIPHIWE SIBEKO
The dollar and the rand. Picture: REUTERS, SIPHIWE SIBEKO

Last Monday morning. The good times were rolling as the rand touched R12.31 to the US dollar, a 20-month high. You would have to go back to before the shock of December 2015, when President Jacob Zuma fired finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with backbencher David Des van Rooyen, to see the currency at such levels.

Within a few weeks, the rand had dived to R16.88/$.

Van Rooyen’s replacement, after just three days in office, was Pravin Gordhan.

Even after Gordhan took office, the rand continued to worm its way weakly into the red against the dollar.

Then Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, pulled off the impossible. Presiding over an economy bereft of direction and subject to bouts of populist speculation by Zuma, they staved off what had been a dead-certain ratings downgrade.

They embarked on road shows explaining that SA was an institutionally sound place where investors could place their money in the certainty of a sound return.

There were moments of currency weakness brought on by such bizarre episodes as the attempt by the head of prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, to jail Gordhan for the unspeakable offence of extending early retirement to an employee.

This failed and Abrahams denounced himself at a news briefing that spun like an Indian wicket.

Battered, but the wiser for it, the rand emerged from darkness to rebuild its dignity.

Which brings us to last Monday morning, when it traded at R12.31/$.

A positive number was fortuitous as Gordhan was about to embark on an investors road show to the UK and Jonas was to lead a similar mission to the US.

Enter Zuma. He recalled Gordhan from his road show and cancelled the Jonas mission altogether.

At the time of writing, the rand was at R12.95/$, having earlier tested R13. See, that’s how you run a country. Into the ground.

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