Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is quiet and boring, the quintessential gray man of politics. This is not a criticism.
Too often finance ministers universally strive to be sparkling, flamboyantly engaging. Such behavior could be a profound response to the fact that their co-workers generally hate them, the same way carefree teenagers hate their parents for not easily handing out big spoonfuls of cash on demand.
A BusinessLIVE op-ed on Wednesday’s budget statement from Godongwana expressed relief that there are “good and sober technocrats” like him in the Treasury.
Economics professor Raymond Parsons of North-West University Business School said the budget was “unsurprising, pragmatic and credible”.
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Of course, as is the case with virtually everyone in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet, Godongwana is not immune to corruption allegations. But nothing ever stuck and the slightest whiff of irregularity was not enough to dissuade Ramaphosa from appointing him successor to Tito Mboweni in August 2021.
And, at least, on the evidence of his Masters of Science from the University of London and his ability to stay one step ahead of the National Prosecuting Authority, he is not fooled.
Certainly, in Ramaphosa’s sinister lineup of clowns, cowboys and bearded ladies, Godongwana is an anomaly. The gray man does his job with steady persistence, without drama or affectation. And perhaps best of all, there were no classes.
This is a nation that is tired of being told by parasitic politicians that our cascade of meteoric disasters is actually a blessing in disguise. “Resilient” and its variants have become popular words in the ANC lexicon.
During this year’s State of the Nation (Sona) address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that although we are in an “existential” crisis, all will be well because we are a nation “defined by hope and resilience” and our “spirit of determination”. ”. We just need to “stay the course”.
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At Sona last year, he told us that although “engaged in a battle for the soul of this country”, everything would be fine because, to quote Thabo Mbeki, “difficult times require courage and resilience “. “Our strength as a people,” concluded Cyril beautifully, “is not tested in the best of times.”
In 2020 and 2021, Ramaphosa and his then finance minister, Tito Mboweni, both dug deep in four successive speeches to be inspirational. It became the political equivalent of dueling banjos – in this case, dueling plants – as each tried to outdo the other in boosting the morale of South Africans with homilies involving native plants.
There was Ramaphosa, brandishing our national flower, “the hardy protea.” The protea, he told his listeners, not only survives the fiercest fire, but literally depends on it to release its seed and sprout. This is how South Africa will rise “like a phoenix” and rise from the ashes of its troubles.
Then came Mboweni, who opted for “the robust Aloe ferox”, which could survive even when “the storm rages”. As South Africans would.
In another budget speech, he simpers recklessly that even if the “storm is not over”, the country will win because “Mr. President, you are the wise farmer, who takes care of this Aloe ferox”.
Although all this talk is enough to make a hyena vomit, there is a kernel of truth here.
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Ask any South African to define the indefinable – the defining characteristics of an unusually diverse conglomeration of peoples – and I’d bet they like to find phrases that indicate traits like mental toughness, a dynamic approach and , yes , resilience.