South Africa will not turn into “another Venezuela”, finance minister Pravin Gordhan said in parliament on Thursday.
“We are miles away from Venezuela. We are a well-managed fiscus,” Gordhan said at the end of a long debate on South Africa’s economy.
“We will take South Africa forward to much better prospects than anyone in this house can,” he said in reply to Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier’s warning that South Africa was in danger of floundering like the South American country.
Conditions all over the world were tough and everybody needed to think of ways to make the economy grow, Gordhan said.
He led a debate titled “Building collective action for inclusive growth”, but it was not long into his speech that divisions in the house were laid bare.
Tensions rose when DA chief whip John Steenhuisen asked that ANC MPs be told to leave quietly. He wondered if they were staging a walkout.
Before long, any sign of unity crumbled, with ANC MP Lindiwe Zulu being forced to withdraw her loud shouts of ”shut up!” at the DA benches.
Gordhan, in a dark pin-striped suit, waited patiently for the argument to play out.
When the beleaguered finance minister resumed, he said doomsayers and sceptics could not be allowed to determine the country’s fate.
In the meantime, government was doing all it could with business and labour to improve conditions. It hoped to hear in about 10 days what ratings agencies Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s made of the country’s risk profile.
The DA said Gordhan’s real problem was President Jacob Zuma and the “rent seekers” who supported him.
“[Zuma is] one man who will stop at nothing to gain control of the national treasury, even if it means triggering a recession,” said Maynier.
As Gordhan was building collective action against a ratings downgrade, his efforts were being hampered by the government and the ruling party.
Maynier blamed Zuma for an “all-out political assault” on Gordhan, who was under investigation by the Hawks regarding a South African Revenue Service unit that allegedly illegally spied on taxpayers.
He said certain people were trying to grind Gordhan down so they could “get their hands on the cookie jar at national treasury”.