Tito Mboweni:- Minister of Finance South Africa-

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In the press conference, which wasn’t very long, Mboweni managed to slay 10 holy cows. You don’t have to agree with all his views to see that he is a breath of fresh air. Mboweni is clearly no fan of the mooted expropriation without compensation law which the ANC is putting through Parliament.

He wants: “Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships,” he said, and then displayed his farmer’s spirit. Mboweni is an avocado farmer who hails from Tzaneen in Limpopo. He regaled the press corps with stories of how land that had been redistributed to beneficiaries in his area now lies fallow.

The once fertile and lush Sapekoe tea estate, for example, is a sad and bedraggled sight compared with the bounties of the surrounding farms. In the area around the Coach House hotel, 27 farms which once produced world-class fruit had been run down to zero production, he lamented.

Mboweni is a fan of ZZ2 in Tzaneen, a multibillion-rand farm owned by the Van Zyl family which produces most quality South African tomatoes and exports by the ship-load. They are now producing avocados, both for their own farm and in conjunction with sections of the Makgoba people who have had land restituted to them as part of the national land reform programme.

Then Mboweni revealed to journalists that he had told his spokesman, Jabulani Sikhakane, to strike the term “service delivery” from his speech as he disliked it because it took agency from ordinary people.

“Service delivery” is a much-beloved South African shibboleth that the new finance minister has struck not only from his speech but, no doubt, from the philosophical underpinning of future budgets.

Imagine the possibilities and pitfalls inherent in such a repositioning of how the state understands itself? The potential is most interesting.

Then, without much ado, Mboweni said he thought South Africa’s Cabinet should be no larger than 25 ministers. Even though it’s pretty clear President Cyril Ramaphosa also thinks his Cabinet and broader executive is obese and wants to put it on a Thuma Mina diet, you will never find him putting a number on his ideal. Not so much Mboweni who said he couldn’t understand why China, with a population of 1.3-billion, has 25 ministers. This idea of a slimmer Cabinet cuts to the heart of the ANC in government. Mboweni’s party is statist, but he is clearly not.

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