It was the best of tweets, it was the worst of tweets, it was the tweet of wisdom, it was the tweet of foolishness – as Charles Dickens might have said in a modern version of A Tale of Two Cities.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has at least two personas. Tweeto advocates state intervention and radical economic transformation. On public platforms, Mboweni preaches what unions call a capitalist agenda.
Who will stand up today to deliver the mini-budget? Tito or Tweeto? Apologists are ready to explain. When people are desperate for signs of hope, they’ll even believe a politician.
Hence the wave of Ramaphoria when Cyril Ramaphosa became president. Nine months later, in the grip of recession, realists are sobering up to the limitations of his populist jargon about expropriation of land without compensation. It is delusional to believe that anyone who advocates property theft can drive economic growth. The effect will be the opposite, as in Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Secure property ownership is a foundation of modern economies. Meddle with that, as Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela, and you end up with 1 000 000% inflation. Such statistics have human faces in the mass exodus of desperate people leaving what was once Latin America’s richest country.
Zimbabwe’s collapse was precipitated by the plunder of private property. Don’t think it could not happen here. Both the ANC and the EFF are in the thrall of the toxic trifecta of expropriation, nationalisation and institutionalised corruption.
Let us not presume that, because Mboweni was once Reserve Bank governor, he will be a steady hand. During his decade out of public office, he said silly things.
In April he tweeted: “Dear God, open the eyes and ears of our leaders. Let them do four things: The state must own 40% of mining companies, start a State Bank, implement appropriate land use planning and create a sovereign wealth fund. What is so difficult? That is Radical Economic Transformation!!”
On Twitter he still supports these statements. Just as Ramaphosa’s reckless comments are played down, we are supposed to believe Mboweni didn’t mean what he said. And things will be different now he is finance minister. That’s wishful thinking.
Ramaphosa and Mboweni are Teflon twins who create a false impression of being business/investor friendly, even while spouting economic nonsense. Mboweni believes in radical economic transformation. He says the state must own 40% of mining companies. For more than a century, South Africa was the world’s greatest gold producer. Now we are eighth, behind China, Australia, Russia, US, Canada, Peru and Indonesia.
When our finance minister wants more state ownership, there is no chance of climbing back up the ranks. ANC cadres have laid waste to every enterprise where the state has a share. A state bank? Save us from VBS on steroids.
Of course, it is possible that Mboweni will today confound sceptics. He may stun us by announcing plans that could realistically boost economic growth and genuinely create jobs.
But don’t bank on it.
Anyway, which Tito would you believe? The radical or the conservative?