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The ANC, the EFF and the SARB: New dawn, old Vaseline or just game six?

Jun 07 2019 05:01
Khulekani Magubane, Fin24

I do not watch much television these days. But this week has been an exciting time, with more than enough drama to keep me at the edge of my seat and my eyes glued to the screen.

I've been spending most of my early mornings watching the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors. I will not bother to update a score here, because you could read this at any time, but the final games between the two teams have given their fair share of "wow" moments, both on the court and courtside. Raptors shooting guard, Kawhi Leonard's counter game is elite! Google the name.

Watching newly Forbes-christened billionaire Jay-Z hang out at courtside with his wife Beyonce and Nicole Curren, the wife of Golden State Warriors owner Joseph Lacob, left gossip mongers' tongues wagging. Rap megastar and de facto Toronto Raptors cheerleader Drake arguing with Golden State Warriors star player Steph Curry, all while picking lint out of the player's hair, will never stop being funny.

Of course, it's all up to game six: a basketball term for the make-or-break game that decides who wins the final.

I didn't think I could find anything that could top it. But, of course, living in South Africa, with the kind of political climate that we have, we will never be short of "wow" moments. 

Tuesday seemed like an ordinary day. African National Congress secretary general Ace Magashule told reporters at Luthuli House, Johannesburg, quite matter-of-factly that the party had resolved to expand the mandate of the South African Reserve Bank.

He said the governing party's National Executive Committee resolved, during a Lekgotla over the weekend, that the Reserve Bank could pull a bit more weight in improving South Africa's employment and economic lot in life.

There was even some talk of a task team to investigate quantitative easing. How magnanimous. How novel!

Of course, less than an hour later Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and ANC economic transformation sub-committee head Enoch Godongwana slammed Magashule's claims as "inaccurate".

You could almost hear Mboweni grumble, "Government runs the show around here, buddy" as he typed his retort on Twitter.

A quantitative easing frenzy in South Africa?! Get out of town! Of course, the reaction to this critical contradiction was negative, mostly for Magashule.

Some stirred the theory that Magashule was out to undermine President Cyril Ramaphosa's efforts to stabilise the economy on purpose. But an equally serious threat just might exist beneath the surface of this internal party fracas spill-over.

When last did anybody talk about expropriation of land without compensation? Don't worry, I'll wait.

A pattern is taking shape in the way the political elite – more specifically the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters – are having at their public economic policy debates.

After all, it was the EFF that introduced the Reserve Bank Amendment Bill in Parliament last year. But that was after a 2017 ANC national conference, where the governing party discussed buying Reserve Bank shares with a view to having more control over it.

Much like the expropriation issue, the Reserve Bank mandate question seems to be taking the route of the EFF initiating something on a legislative level and the ANC pre-emptively kicking the ball two yards up the field to deny Julius Malema's party the political advantage.

One would hate to think matters such as balancing land equality and property rights, as well as the vital role of the Reserve Bank to the economy, have become something of a basketball game between the two parties.

With that said, can we be sure that all the players in the same colours on the political playing field are all playing for the same team? It seems like a reasonable conclusion that the more the ANC yields to the EFF in terms of policy, the stronger Magashule becomes, at least with regard to the SARB.

Winning the general election by 57% as the ANC's candidate, Ramaphosa has the smallest majority of any ANC president, but still has enough to do much of what he wants to for the ANC and the economy.

But one has to wonder if the endgame is to lay the foundation for a better South African future, or to manoeuvre the ANC out of defence mode.

Malema heaped contempt on Ramaphosa's new Cabinet last week in a briefing, where he hilariously mused that it was "not a new dawn, but just an old Vaseline".

But if Malema has the kind of hold over ANC's policy moves that many believe he does, then the challenges that might see the country downgraded and plunged into a recession may be done to achieve just one thing: win game six.

Khulekani Magubane is a senior reporter at Fin24. Views expressed are his own.



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