Tito Mboweni, the finance minister, has been around the shaping of ANC party economic policy for so long now it is hard to believe the national budget he presented on Wednesday was his first. It may also be his last. I got an honourable mention in the speech he made in parliament for writing just that. Enigmatic and eccentric as ever, he has openly said that after the May 8 election he will not return to the job into which he was catapulted, out of retirement (or at least seclusion) late last year. Yet he also bristles at the suggestion that he has played a mere walk-on part in the preparation of the 2019 budget. In a way, he was the perfect person on the day. There wasn’t much he could do about the country’s finances or its sullen mood. He couldn’t cut taxes and he couldn’t do anything about growth. But straight talking is an Mboweni speciality. I remember years ago, soon after he became governor of the Reserve Bank, he paid a visit to Zimbabwe. He came back and reported that "the ...

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