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Don't undermine Zuma's leadership

By Vuso Shabalala, January 22, 2016

The NDP states: "The fragility of South Africa's economy lies in the distorted pattern of ownership and economic exclusion created by apartheid policies. The effects of decades of racial exclusion are still evident in both employment levels and income differentials.

"The fault lines of these differentials are principally racially defined but also include skill levels, gender and location. Deep inequalities and the associated low levels of trust have a highly negative impact on economic development and make it harder to forge a social compact that could move South Africa onto a higher developmental trajectory."

The validity of the above message from the NDP is uncontested. How this is to be achieved, however, is. Is it through inclusive economic growth as the NDP recommends or market fundamentalism?

In his column, "What JZ must learn from Mbeki", January 20, Mpumelelo Mkhabela goes on the reverse-populism that says do not talk about the current conditions of life of the majority of the people lest the global markets take their money away.

He says: "The markets do not act on a philanthropic basis . global markets operate like a casino." He even talks of the "madness of global markets" without appreciating the irony.

Mkhabela says all this and more to support the argument that President Jacob Zuma "should consider withdrawing from publicly commenting on the economy . his utterances and decisions have a negative effect on the country's economic direction", and so on.

This is what market fundamentalists want to hear from Mkhabela, and he does not disappoint them. He never hears the investor confidence-building messages of President Zuma which the loony radicals castigate him for.

Mkhabela specifically talks about the importance of "indicators like the budget balance". He makes no connection between this and the "counter-cyclical fiscal policy stance" that "much-maligned prudent economic policies" made possible.

He also makes no reference to the fact that the fourth and current democratic administrations invested a trillion rands as part of the counter-cyclical stance, took the conscious decision for fiscal consolidation, keeping the public debt below 50%, and are taking measures to reduce it from the current 47%.

The official explanation about the removal of Nhlanhla Nene and his proposed redeployment to a strategic position in the regional leadership of the New Development Bank (Brics Bank) is dismissed without a second thought by many who are opposed to the very existence of Brics, let alone the Brics Bank.

Cabinets all over the world take expenditure decisions, not finance ministers. The latter play a critical role through their inputs as heads of treasury. That is why Zuma appointed capable cadres Pravin Gordhan in 2009 and Nene in 2014 - without consulting Mkhabela. That is also why, sensitive to global markets that Mkhabela calls mad, he reappointed Gordhan.

Columnists are happy to play the same song over and over to attract advertising revenue, and of course to entertain and misinform the public. Their particular kind of sophistication on economic management moves counter to the considered recommendations of the NDP 2030 initiated and championed by President Zuma and the ANC government that he leads.

True leadership lies in the readiness to act boldly and in a measured manner.

President Zuma is not going to be told by Mkhabela when to talk and what to talk about. To be taken seriously as professionals, journalists should at least attempt to be more sophisticated in reporting and political commentary.

• Shabalala is a political adviser to President Jacob Zuma

• This  article was published on the SowetanLIVE website: