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From Verwoerd to Chavez: Battle heats up over Treasury aide

Apr 17 2017 09:15
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier was accused of being trained at the “Verwoerd school of politics” after he accused Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s new economic adviser of being trained at the “Hugo Chavez School of Economics”.

Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete tweeted his “Verwoerd” retort on Sunday in response to a tweet by Maynier about Professor Chris Malikane, which he later deleted.

“Professor Chris Malikane sounds like he was trained at the Hugo Chavez School of Economics,” Maynier had tweeted.

“You sound like you were trained at the Verwoerd school of politics,” responded Tshwete.

On Monday, Maynier told Fin24 that he is "not bothered by comments coming from ministerial minions".

Duma Gqubule, founder of the Centre for Economic Development and Transformation, responded to Tshwete's tweet, defending Malikane's appointment: "There are too many right-wing economists at Treasury. We need Chris to provide an alternative perspective."

Hendrik Verwoerd was the architect of apartheid in South Africa, while Chavez was the architect of a new brand of 21st century socialism in Venezuela in the 2000s.

While apartheid failed with its nationalist and racist economic policies in the 1990s, Venezuela’s nationalisation programme that aimed to cut poverty and inequality has seen the country teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

Maynier’s tweet was followed up with an official statement after reports emerged that Malikane – who has punted nationalisation reforms – had been appointed as Gigaba’s adviser.

READ: Aide to Gigaba advocates nationalisations

Malikane advocated for the state takeover of banks, mines and insurance companies in a newspaper editorial, two weeks after President Jacob Zuma’s ouster of Pravin Gordhan shocked investors and led to a debt downgrade, Bloomberg explained.

Gigaba and his deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi, both appointed on March 31, have met with the CEOs of Standard Bank, Barclays Africa, Nedbank and FirstRand and assured them there would be no shift in policy, the Banking Association of SA said on April 5.

However, there is concern that the soothing words to businesses may be short lived and that economic policy will shift with the change in political leadership.

“The appointment of Professor Chris Malikane, who appears to have been trained at the Hugo Chavez School of Economics, is entirely understandable and a logical consequence of the minister’s political agenda, to implement radical economic transformation and to take on orthodox economists at National Treasury,” Maynier said in a statement on Sunday.

“The fact is that Professor Chris Malikane has been appointed precisely because he is an unorthodox economist and he will be used as a ministerial battering ram in coming battles with orthodox economists at National Treasury.

“In the end, Professor Chris Malikane’s appointment will reinforce the perception held by the ratings agencies that there will be major shifts in economic policy, which will shake investor confidence and contribute to a ratings downgrade of South Africa.”

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