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Looking Beyond Pravin Gordhan

By Andile Mngxitama

All indications are that the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan, shall be recalled within days. It’s no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when. This presents the nation and those who seek a move from the colonial structure of the economy into a more pro-black economic dispensation, with an opportunity to think about what kind of minister of finance is required to serve the interests of the black majority. Two kinds of work need to be undertaken, firstly, to set objective criteria for a relevant Finance Minister who can drive an agenda for economic liberation. Secondly, we need to set out the targets that must be met if we hope to move from the white dominated economy to a more black-centered era in the economic life of the nation.

Elements of an objective criteria for a progressive Finance Minister must incorporate, amongst others, the following elements:

1.      A track record of confronting white monopoly capital.
2.      A tract record of serving black people and black business interests.
3.      Understanding of history of oppression and radical black philosophies such as Black Consciousness and Pan Afrikanism.
4.      Must have no common interests with white monopoly capital.
5.      Put people before profits.
6.      A good grasp of the economy and state.
7.      Have a demeanor in synch with the demands of “Radical Economic” change.
8.      Have no regard for western controlled rating agencies.
9.      Be pro BRICS.
10.     Subscribe to the idea of “growth through redistribution”.

In other words, a replacement for Pravin Gordhan must be opposed to the Washington Consensus and neo-liberal economic logic. Necessarily such a minister must be opposed to the neo-liberal logic of the National Development Plan (NDP). A new deal that centres black interests must replace the NDP. A new minister must at least satisfy 70% of the criteria to be able to put the whole treasury machine in a path to a new dispensation.

If the above criteria are applied, then Brian Molefe would be a clear leading candidate for the job. A few candidates would score as high as Molefe on these criteria. Molefe himself would have to be vigorously evaluated on these criteria.

Secondly, we need to see a clear plan for the medium and long term economic turn-around for blacks. Amongst the preliminary key deliverables, the following must be considered:

1.      Fully licensing black banks such as Ithala; VDS; PostBank within a year.
2.      License 10 black banks in five years.
3.      Immediately terminate all government accounts with ABSA.
4.      Nationalise the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
5.      Raise set-asides to 80% black owned for procurement spend from government (R500 billion plus the R900 billion infrastructure expenditure). PIC mandates to asset management to 80% black owned (R2.8 trillion).
6.      State Bank within 2 years.
7.      Insist on black youth and women be properly represented in the 80% black centered government procurement spend.
8.      Raise the penalties for collusion to 90% of revenue for each year of transgressions.
9.      Halve unemployment in 5 years!
10.     Prioritize economic integration of SADC.

These measures are important to kick start a process towards radical transformation of the economy.  A period of explosion of radical thought and experimentation must be encouraged, with a firm commitment to putting wealth in black hands. This can be done with the whole government leadership pulling together. Complementary radical developments must happen in the areas of land redistribution, mining and energy and industry and trade. These measures are possible, and the President’s radical posture could give great impetus to these outcomes.  But for these measures to be realized, we cannot rely on technical top-down bureaucratic leadership. The collective energies and wisdom of the people must be mobilized from the base. A radical economic reconstruction is necessarily mass based. Do not fear the masses, be inspired by the masses!

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