In December last year, about 70 senior academic economists wrote an open letter expressing their outrage following President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. These academics have written another open letter – this time about the Hawks investigation into Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

In December 2015 the shocking decision by President Jacob Zuma to fire Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene led about 70 senior academic economists from across South African universities to write an open letter to the Business Day to express our outrage at the capriciousness of that decision and to warn of the likely consequences for the country’s fragile economy.
That that decision was politically motivated has been borne out by subsequent events. Significantly Mr Nene’s redeployment to the Brics Bank, ostensibly the reason for his removal, has not materialised; the president continues to use every platform to sing the praises of the little known back bencher he appointed in Nene’s place, and to express bitterness at the role of (so called) white monopoly capitalists who he claims forced a reversal of his decision to appoint van Rooyen.

At the time and in the circumstances, some commentators thought that the new Minister Pravin Gordhan would be safe from similar politically motivated attacks. How wrong they were. Since earlier this year Minister Gordhan has been subjected to an unrelenting attack from the Hawks who have been investigating the minister’s alleged role in the establishment of the so-called “rogue” spy unit when he was the Sars commissioner. A few days ago the media reported that the Hawks were once more “circling” the minister.

These events have once again compelled us to put pen to paper to express our outrage and warn of the dangers to our still very fragile economy. With predictions of zero growth in 2016, stubbornly high unemployment, persistent poverty and inequality, and a volatile currency, this is not the time, if there ever was, to be playing such dangerous games with the lives and well-being of all sectors of our economy and society, especially the poor and the vulnerable. We say all this with the same qualifiers we employed in our December 2015 letter; including our recognition that Ministers of Finance do not enjoy any special privileges or protection, and that everyone is subject to the rule of law and the constitution. Finally, our stance does not mean that all of us share with equal enthusiasm the fiscal framework of the Treasury and government.

We urge the President, the Cabinet and the NEC of the ANC to assist in this bringing this dangerous set of events to an end in the best way possible in the interests of our country and our economy. It is time for real leaders in the NEC and the Cabinet and in the SACP and Cosatu to stand up to the tyrannical and despotic behaviour on display here because yet again we stand on the edge of an economic precipice.

We end expressing similar sentiments to those used in our December 2015 letter: As senior academics in Economics and related disciplines we express our unambiguous and urgent concern both about these events in general, about the unseemly attacks on the Minister of Finance and about the general lack of progress in tackling the massive and growing crisis of low growth, poverty, unemployment and inequality as well as the crisis of governance at our state-owned enterprises.

Collectively supported by:

Private Sector

Iraj Abedian – Chief Economist, Pan-African Investment & Research Services (Pty) Ltd.

University of Cape Town

Prof Haroon Bhorat

Prof Anthony Black

Prof Faizel Ismail

Prof Murray Leibbrandt

Prof Martin Wittenberg

Prof Ingrid Woolard

Prof Alan Hirsch

Prof Cally Ardington

Prof Christopher Rooney

Dr Co-Pierre Georg

Prof David Kaplan

Prof Don Ross

Mr Grant Smith

Ms Katherine Eyal

Ms Kezia Lilenstein

Prod Lawrence Edwards

Assoc Prof Malcolm Keswell

Assoc Prof Mark Ellyne

Prof Martine Visser

Prof Mike Morris

Mr Morne Oosthuizen

Prof Nicoli Nattrass

Assoc Prof Tony Leiman

Toughedah Jacobs

Sarah Marriott

Adaiah Lilenstein

Jabulile Monnakgotla

Amy Thornton

Shakira Jeppie

University of Pretoria

Prof Steve Koch (HOD)

Prof Elsabe Loots (Dean)

Prof Riel Franzsen (NRF-Chair)

Prof James Blignaut

Prof Jan van Heerden

Rhodes University

Prof Robert Van Niekerk

North West University

Wilma Viviers

University of Stellenbosch

Prof Rulof P. Burger

Prof Nick Vink

Prof Theo Kleynhans

Prof Servaas van der Berg

Prof Andrie Schoombee

Prof Estian Calitz

Prof Ada Jansen

Prof Johan Fourie

Prof Ben Smit

Prof Ronelle Burger

Prof Johann Kirsten

University of the Western Cape

Prof Julian May

University of Witwatersrand

Prof Imraan Valodia

Prof Vishnu Padayachee

Prof Dori Posel

Assoc Prof Daniela Casale

Assoc Prof Uma Kollamparambil

Dr Gareth Roberts

Fatima Bhoola

Lumkile Mondi

Nimisha Naik

Kenneth Creamer