New South Africa finance minister Melusi Gigaba calls for radical reform
South Africa needs to “radically transform” its economy, the country’s new finance minister has said.
The treasury has been seen for too long as belonging to “big business, powerful interests and international investors,” Malusi Gigaba said.
“This is a people’s government,” he told his first news conference since President Jacob Zuma fired his respected predecessor, Pravin Gordhan.
Thursday night’s sacking shook markets and divided the ruling party.
Mr Gordhan’s sudden dismissal, part of a reshuffle affecting nine ministers, led to a 5% plunge in the value of the currency, the rand.
The ruling African National Congress’ deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, called it “totally, totally unacceptable” and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe also opposed it.
What does ‘radical transformation’ mean?
In 2014, the ANC adopted “radical economic transformation” policies to boost the economic position of the black majority in the post-apartheid nation.
But many in the ruling party believe the process has been “too slow and in many instances superficial”, said Mr Gigaba, who was previously home affairs minister.
“The ownership of wealth and assets remains concentrated in the hands of a small part of the population,” he said.
But he added that he did not “seek to implement a reckless lurch in a particular direction”.
“We will stay the course in terms of the fiscal policy stance approved by government,” the new minister said.
Why has this caused such a fuss?
Pravin Gordhan was seen by many as a safe pair of hands when it came to managing the economy.
He was seen as a bulwark against corruption in an administration that is facing growing criticism. He resisted calls from the president to increase government expenditure.
Malusi Gigaba, however, is widely seen as an ally of Mr Zuma and does not have a background in finance.
Why was Mr Gordhan sacked?
Opposition parties say it is because he was obstructing President Zuma and his allies – whom they accused of corruption – from gaining access to state funds.
Mr Zuma, who rejects the allegations, said the move was about a “radical socio-economic transformation”.
Local media point to an alleged intelligence report accusing Mr Gordhan of working with foreigners to undermine Mr Zuma’s administration.
Last October, Mr Gordhan was charged with fraud but the charges were later dropped. He has described the allegations as politically motivated.