If Treasury goes, dictatorship looms
It has now emerged that the capable and experienced deputy director-general of finance has quit his job.
After all the speculation about President Jacob Zuma’s free tertiary education plan, the release yesterday of the Heher Commission probe into post-school education funding came as an anti-climax.
Not only was there no sign of free university education, but there was a proposal for a “cost sharing” finance system which would effectively burden students with heavy debt after they graduate.
The most significant recommendation in the report was a proposal to invest R50 billion in institutions for technical and vocational training and make them free for students.
The release of the report followed suggestions that Zuma had been concocting a radical plan for free tertiary education and that he had instructed the Treasury to “rob Peter to pay Paul” by moving funds from other programmes.
After all that fuss, Zuma said he would release the report ahead of schedule. Are we too cynical to ask of this master strategist and cunning manipulator whether this was not done deliberately to divert attention from more seriously damaging developments with his administration?
It has now emerged that the capable and experienced deputy director-general of finance, Michael Sachs, has quit his job.
Reports suggest it is because he has become increasingly concerned that Zuma and the office of the presidency are playing a more and more central role in the government budgeting process.
That has ominous implications indeed. Given that the president is wholly unperturbed about the mountain of allegations of corruption and state capture looming over him; and that he has pronounced himself in favour of the ruinously expensive R1 trillion nuclear build programme, it appears as though Zuma is grabbing those reins of power not already in his hands.
The Treasury has been the last bulwark against the reckless spending of the Zuma regime. If that goes, what we have left is, simply, a dictatorship.