Letter: Finance post holds key - Business Day

SA’s political realities are now looking decidedly different from what they were merely weeks ago.

SA’s political realities are now looking decidedly different from what they were merely weeks ago.

Talk of the viability of coalition politics — or, more accurately, co-operation — between parties resolutely opposed to one another is now no longer theoretical. For better or worse, and as discomforting as this will no doubt be, it is the only course forward if the country is to stand a chance of a worthwhile future.

However, finger-wagging injunctions to political parties to dispense with “petty politics” and “work together for the good of the country”, should be treated with scepticism. It is far from clear that they see SA’s problems in the same way, let alone could agree on a common way forward. A real danger exists that “co-operation” could simply mean gridlock and ongoing or accelerated decline.

A partial solution might be found in co-operation going beyond political role players. The president is permitted to include two members of the cabinet from outside parliament, a prerogative exercised for example by then president Nelson Mandela in appointing Chris Liebenberg as finance minister.

We at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) have argued that no challenge is greater than elevating SA’s moribund growth rate. All efforts have to be devoted to driving this.

The key position will be the finance portfolio. The introduction of a respected, no-nonsense expert as finance minister, able to interact with colleagues on all sides of the aisle (or at least those involved in the governing arrangement) and secure the confidence of local and global markets would be an inestimable asset. There have been some encouraging reports that this is under consideration, and it is very much to be encouraged.

Of course, this means the political actors would sacrifice a critical position in government, and the powers associated with it. If nothing else, this would be a concrete demonstration of their willingness to “work together for the good of the country”.

Terence Corrigan
Institute of Race Relations