South Africa deserves a proper Minister of Finance and not a MasterChef wannabe

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) at its National Executive Committee (NEC) held last week after extensive analysis reiterated its long held view that the current Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni, is not the right man for the job and that he should be axed from his position.

As NEHAWU, we have been extremely worried about the conduct of Mr Mboweni for a very long time especially his total disregard for the African National Congress (ANC) and the Alliance at large. The national union has pleaded with the ANC through public statements in December 2019 and 1st November 2020 to reign in its deployee to government, unfortunately, the ANC has never shown an appetite or intention to reign him in.

The governing party kept quiet when Mr Mboweni was responsible for the unilateral publication of a neoliberal economic discussion document which was totally different from the outcomes of the ANC 54th National Conference and the 2019 National General Elections Manifesto commitments. On the 27th August 2019 Mr Mboweni published a document titled “Economic transformation, inclusive growth, and competitiveness: Towards an economic Strategy for South Africa”. The document incorporated capitalist economic policy reformist prescriptions from the “OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa” and “Economic Policy Reforms 2017: Going for Growth” developed by the elite Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2017. The document had ill-intentions to undermine the sovereignty of our national democratic policy space. Its formulation did not involve the participation of Alliance partners and they only interacted with the document when it was released to the public. Furthermore, our view is that the document was published to avert our national democratic transition onto a second radical phase.

NEHAWU has always steadfastly stood against neo-liberal policy regime measures because we hold a strong view that it is this economic policy regime that has plunged the world into economic crisis and our country into the undesirable economic situation it finds itself in recently. The cut and paste document was designed to reverse the gains of workers including collective bargaining and the minimum wage thus reducing workers to a life of poverty and squalor.

On the 10th January 2020 we called on Mr Mboweni to do the honourable thing and resign, however, he also ignored that call. It is for these reasons that the NEC meeting took a decision to call for his axing. Our call for his axing is underpinned by the fact that Mr Mboweni has proven beyond reasonable doubt that he does not have the best interest of the country at heart and he is anti-workers. He has went out of his way to punish workers for sins not of their making and has continuously led the onslaught against public servants. The recently announced salary freezes in the public service are a fruition of the threats he has been making together with his Deputy Minister and the Director General for the past two years.

What infuriates our members and workers is the fact that during the delivery of the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement he saw it fit to lie and say discussions are taking place between government and organised labour on the looming salary freezes. Such discussions are not taking place and we view this misleading statement by Mr Mboweni as an attempt to cause divisions between unions and workers. His intention is to create an impression that we are currently discussing the reversal of workers gains and agreeing with government to subject them to a life of poverty. We don’t take kind to any attempts to undermine the unity of workers and unions including the naked disregard for the truth especially from someone that must be trusted with the finances of the country.

The economy of the country has tanked because instead of doing his work he has been focusing on his non-existent cooking skills, eating pilchards, large amounts of garlic and being a celebrity of Twitter. Instead of prioritising the needs of the country he has been focusing on things that have no relationship with the leadership vested on him to bring viable financial stability to strengthen the South African economy. We strongly believe that these silly stunts are meant to hide the fact that he is incapable of doing his job favourable to the working class and poor who remains a majority of the South African population.

Our view is that he is the worst Finance Minister that we have had as a country post the 1994 democratic breakthrough as he has caused the economy insufferable damages because of his constant desire to please rating agencies, obsession with inflation targeting and overreliance on austerity measures. At worst with him at the helm of the country’s Treasury, we have seen the displacement of transformational economic resolutions and manifestos of the ANC whenever state apparatus are to translate these resolutions and manifestos into polices for implementation, especially the macroeconomic policies.

We are currently in a crisis mode and we need a proactive Minister who will roll up his sleeves and resolve the calamity we are facing. Our view is that the Minister is not interested in turning around the current dire situation we are currently facing as a country. His only preoccupation is being the ambassador of Lucky Star tin fish while leading the onslaught on collective bargaining and the reversal of the hard-won gains of our members and workers.

Frontline workers selflessly served this country during the hard lockdown without receiving their salary increases which were due on the 1st April 2020. Their conditions were made worse by the fact that they had to deal with intermittent supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), unreliable public transport and life threatening situations. Moreover, they cannot afford basic necessities because their salaries are too meagre without the increase and the rise of annual medical aids tariffs makes them worse off than they were last year.

As announced by our NEC, we will be marching to the Union Buildings and Parliament in Cape Town to demand the salary increase of our members and workers and call for an end to the onslaught on collective bargaining, austerity measures and neoliberal policies by National Treasury and the intended wage freeze. Moreover, the National Day of Action to collect our money will be used also to intensify our demand for Mr Mboweni to be axed. Furthermore, the national union has taken a decision to picket everywhere Mr Mboweni will be making an appearance across the country to vent our anger at him for using our members and workers as scapegoats including punishing them for problems in the fiscus.

Lastly, we believe that it is about time Mr Mboweni goes to culinary school and stop masquerading as a Minister. He can focus fulltime on his budding cooking career, maybe if he puts all his energy into it he might just win MasterChef, My Kitchen Rules, and come dine with me or any other cooking competition.  

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: