Pravin Gordhan : best budget vote speech

Pravin Gordhan speaks on corruption……

pravin gordhan MTBSDuring his budget vote speech to Parliament, Pravin Gordhan, minister of finance, said,  “In the same way we built in South Africa a new sense of tax compliance and personal discipline, perhaps we should now rid ourselves of the evils of corruption”.

Indeed, the fact that we are now headed towards becoming the major nuclear nation on the continent and with the issue of shale gas exploration on the cards, let alone gas exploration off the Mozambique coast, all of this will undoubtedly lead us into a different league in the years ahead on the African continent. So what we look like to others is especially important.

Until now, like two competing top league football teams, South Africa and Nigeria seem to have vied for top dog position. Then Marikana came along and we seem to have lost all confidence in ourselves and certainly Standard and Poor and all the others have voiced theirGoodluck Jonathan displeasure at the way we do things.

Nigeria has more problems

But then nothing can compare with Nigeria’s problems of declaring a state of emergency in three regions and the containment of insurrection from Boko Haram as radicals try to establish Sharia law in one third of its land mass. Trouble is therefore purely relative to what one is trying to achieve. But somehow President Goodluck Jonathan seems to do better than President Zuma in the PR stakes.

In South Africa’s case, we could be said to be lacking in a pool of skills but Willie de Beer of SANEDI, a quiet but respected leader in the energy field, says that South Africa certainly has the skills to put its energy mix together properly if it seriously puts it mind to it. Minister Dipuo Peters referred this week to bringing in outside strategic help on nuclear issues.

Working together at last

In fact it was refreshing to see Minister Gigaba of public enterprises and Minister Peters on energy both on the podium working from the same hymn sheet.

Then one turns to gas exploration and the potential that many claim that this is.  Gas will be realised sooner perhaps for its possibilities. Also probably it is easier subject to tackle, especially if PetroSA can get rid of its opportunists and some form certainty reigns for investors as far the regulatory environment is concerned – something that hasn’t happened in Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique. A steady environment for gas development has the potential to make South Africa great.

So is it the skills we lack?   Or just the confidence to become a bigger and better nation and consequently the giant on the African continent?

Poor issue management

Probably lot of it is bad PR at the top as well, with Mac Maharaj having to operate the bilge pumps so regularly as heavy waves of unexplained statements and odd decisions from cabinet swamp the decks. The fact that the cabinet sits so long on problems and fails to make decisions probably has a lot to do with the indecisive look that seems to emerge from our top brass – Waterkloof issues and Gupta’s aside, but on serious policy issues, all points to a cabinet that is lacking in cohesion and lacking in depth at this moment.

koebergCertainly a statement from a minister on entry into the nuclear top league and a picture of the president in loinzuma wedding cloths holding a spear in a KwaZulu marriage function on the same front page probably failed to inspire confidence that day. And nobody seems to be taking corruption seriously in the cabinet either. And it is all so easy to blame everything on bad PR, however.  Usually in times such as this the right man for the moment emerges but it is difficult at the moment to image who this is could be.

Clever Trevor

Trevor Manuel used to have the uncanny habit of making the right kind of statement when South Africa needed it. Perhaps his successor Pravin Gordhan hit the right button when during the treasury budget vote speech this week, he said, “SARS managed to bring to the country a new sense of tax compliance and personal discipline and perhaps a new national campaign is needed to rid ourselves in the same way of the evils of corruption and bring a sense of discipline.”

We have been lucky with our ministers of finance in South Africa and perhaps we should take the lead of Pravin Gordhan when he says that we really can do these things if we put our heads down, put only properly qualified people into jobs and do what we have said we will do, on time and every time.

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