The Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, needs to act decisively to stop the bleeding following his appointment of Professor Chris Malikane as his economic advisor.
Last week the minister claimed his economic advisor had been “reined in” and told to “keep quiet”.
But since being “reined in”, the minister’s economic advisor has done anything but “keep quiet”.
He was interviewed by:
- SAFM (bashing ratings agencies);
- Cape Talk (bashing the private sector);
- Sowetan (bashing the National Development Plan); and
- Rapport (warning of coming civil war).
And he appeared at the minister’s side during his international investor roadshow in the United States.
In fact, the minister’s economic advisor now denies being told to “keep quiet”, defiantly claiming there is no way the minister could tell him to “keep his mouth shut”.
This is what the minister’s economic advisor said in response to a question about the ministerial gagging order:
“No, no, no, no. People’s inference of what the minister said is wrong. There is no way the minister can tell a fellow South African to keep his mouth shut. I am an academic, I work with ideas. I have to challenge public opinions that mislead the nation. When the minister said he reined me in, he meant we should no longer focus on talking, but on doing – action that will transform the economy.”
We can only conclude that either the minister was lying when he claimed his economic advisor had been told to “keep quiet”, or he is too weak to ensure that his economic advisor does in fact “keep quiet”, and his economic advisor has gone rogue.
Whatever the case, the minister must now face up to the fact that his first few weeks on the job have been a disaster which has undermined investor confidence and fueled policy uncertainty.
The minister has tied himself into knots by:
- somersaulting from “radical economic transformation” to “inclusive economic growth”;
- attacking “orthodox” and “right wing” economists at National Treasury; and
- appointing an economic advisor who wants to turn South Africa into Venezuela.
The fact is that the minister’s economic advisor has become a political liability and it is now time for him to act decisively and stop the bleeding by cutting him loose and sending him back to the seminar room where his mad ideas about the economy will do no harm to South Africa.