….September 2020…

The Man to Watch….                                             


With little more than a month to go, our unique and maybe somewhat offbeat Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, will be presenting to the nation the half-year mini-Budget coming at one of the most troubling times in the country’s history.  But make no mistake, this is a situation in which Mboweni excels.   Like Boris Johnson, he seems to be a product of good schooling and elite business company mixed with the rough and tumble of activist politics at the many levels of South African business and industry.

A product of “Turfloop”, or University of the North, with its revolutionary background mixed with excellent academic outpourings, a learning institution supported by the Nationalist Party as a showpiece of bantustan success  in  apartheid days, this institution has produced many a fine student who has fitted in well with modern ANC economics and moved easily in business circles.

Now called University of Limpopo, providing contributors to the South Africa panoply such as Reuel Khosa and Frank Chikane, both from Bushbuck Ridge, Adv. Pansy Tlakula and Cyril Ramaphosa, all and many more hail from this close and small educational fraternity.   Mboweni finished his studies in Lesotho, having to leave South Africa in haste, but earning his stripes as an undercover ANC cadre. AN excellent rounding in economics was completed in East Anglia University, UK.

Pretty good stuff for a little boykie from Polokwane.

Mboweni plays ‘hard to get’ when it comes to playing his part in the modern financial world.   That’s his style. Fortunately, a few days ago, he reconfirmed his dedication to the post of Minister of Finance after flying off the handle in typical fashion about the sacking of a Zambian Reserve Bank colleague, having been ticked off by his cabinet senior and ultimate boss Ramaphosa for his undiplomatic outburst.

Truth be known, despite dancing Al Jerusalema on Facebook in his somewhat shoddy British Clark’s casual shoes, an exhibition that went viral from the Minister’s kitchen with his kids, Tito Mboweni loves just as much the old-fashioned British banking society atmosphere as a beer in Sophiatown.

Many well remember him relaxing as Governor of South Africa in the leather arm chairs of Cape Town Club with members enjoying a fine cigar and good port.  This was a posting which led him to the swirling snow of Davos and the company of the world’s top economists and those that met him there said at the time that he looked like a man enjoying himself.

Somehow, he was the only man at the time who could have walked into the IMF and got a loan for COVID on such soft terms.  The fact that the money got stolen by a good number of his ANC colleagues must have distressed him greatly.

Mboweni is no fool at all.   Just a bit explosive.  Whilst differing in many respects from the two other “T”s that he worked with during the era of GEAR – Trevor Manuel and Thabo Mbeki, Tito Mboweni has managed to mix revolutionary Chinese thinking on money matters with the top brains from Wall Street, whilst still maintaining the right kind of approach on economics that South Africa really needs.

His recent Economic Strategy Update (recommended reading) worked out with his counterparts in  National Treasury with whom we are told he relates well and treats same with the highest respect which they deserve, the carefully moulded document takes South Africa out of the current economic slump and high levels of unemployment to a new kind of thinking and vision of who we are as a developing nation.

According to economist Mike Schussler, Mboweni’s thoughts are just what is needed in times when South Africa is trapped by the past with cash absorbing SOEs and no vision of Southern Africa becoming the massive trading bloc it should be.

With one exception of a four-day lame duck appointed by Jacob Zuma, South Africa has a history of excellent finance ministers and with the present incumbent about to take us into very troubled waters, with good support it appears from President Ramaphosa, any opposition from COSATU and SACP narrow channel thinkers will be well matched.     We say, watch this man cometh the budget hour.


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