South Africa’s new finance minister signaled on Saturday he would oversee a redistribution of wealth to the country’s black majority, as a row over the sacking of his predecessor laid bare bitter divisions within the ruling ANC party.
Saying the country was poised at a “polarized and contentious” moment, Malusi Gigaba promised to transform the economy while keeping the public accounts balanced.
“The ownership of wealth and assets remains concentrated in the hands of a small part of the population. This must change,” he told a televised news conference. His predecessor Pravin Gordhan, respected by international investors and dismissed on Friday after months of internecine sparring with President Jacob Zuma, meanwhile urged action against what he called a growing “streak of authoritarianism” in domestic politics. Gordhan spoke at a memorial service for veteran anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada where the crowd, which included many ANC supporters, chanted for Zuma’s removal.
Gigaba’s comment on the economy chimed in with the more populist line taken by Zuma, who faces a growing backlash from within his own party after electoral setbacks and missteps that included a fiasco that threatened the payment of social grants to 17 million.
African National Congress administrations that have governed without interruption since Nelson Mandela become president in 1994 have promised to spread prosperity. Progress has been made including building 4.5 million housing units for the poor and establishing a broad-based social welfare system.—Agencies