Crush on you: All eyes on Gigaba

After a manic fortnight an expectant nation will tonight listen to president Cyril Ramaphosa’s inaugural State of the Nation address but keep a keen eye on Candy Crush aficionado Malusi Gigaba.

Treasury is set to present its 2018 budget to parliament on Wednesday, but the other focal point of tonight’s proceedings will be finance minister Malusi Gigaba.

Some economists and political analysts questioned Gigaba’s credentials when he was named finance minister in March 2017, replacing Pravin Gordhan, who had built a strong public perception of fiscal prudence.
His appointment by former president Jacob Zuma ignited speculation that he was placed there as an ‘inside man’ for Zuma to capture the treasury.

It was during Gigaba’s tenure as Minister of Public Enterprises that allegations of state capture at state-owned enterprises began to emerge.

On Thursday, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) walked out of Ramaphosa’s nomination in parliament, later explaining to journalists that it was in part in protest at Gigaba delivering the budget speech.

EFF CIC Julius Malema took a verbal swing at “that crook Malusi Gigaba who illegally granted the Gupta family citizenship” and who “must not be allowed to deliver the budget.”“Zuma will go jail, we want to see him suffer. It is not over. We want to fetch him from the village to Kgosi Mampuru [prison]. I told him when he expelled us that ‘you are fighting with the wrong people because we have age on our side..’”

“In SONA he [Ramaphosa] must announce the removal of minister of finance [Gigaba]. This man can not be trusted and he must not deliver the budget speech this week,” he said.

Questions now abound about whether Ramaphosa will reshuffle the cabinet before the budget speech and replace Gigaba.

In October 2017, Gigaba announced dire budget forecasts, including weak growth expectations, revenue shortfall and rising government debt. A month later S&P Global Ratings downgraded South Africa to “junk”, citing the deterioration of South Africa’s economic outlook and public finances. Fitch, which also rates the country’s debt as “junk”, affirmed S&P’s rating in November. Moody‘s, which has rated South African debt on its lowest investment grade rung, placed the country on review for a downgrade. 

Moody’s is expected to make a decision on the country’s economic rating after the budget.

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