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By William Saunderson-Meyer


‘Resilient’ and its variations have become popular words in the ANC lexicon

At this year’s Sona, Ramaphosa said that despite us being in an 'existential' crisis, all would be okay because we’re a nation 'defined by hope and resilience'.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is unobtrusive and boring, the quintessential grey man of politics. That’s not a criticism.

Finance ministers universally too often strive to be sparklingly witty, engagingly flamboyant. Such behaviour might be a deep-seated response to their colleagues generally hating them, much in the way that feckless adolescents hate their parents for not readily doling out large dollops of cash on demand.

A BusinessLIVE editorial on Godongwana’s Wednesday budget statement expressed relief that there were “good and sober technocrats” like him in the Treasury.

Economics professor Raymond Parsons of the North-West University Business School said the budget was “surprise-free, pragmatic and credible”.

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Of course, as is true of virtually every person in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet, Godongwana is not untainted by corruption allegations. But nothing has ever stuck and any faint whiff of impropriety was not enough to deter Ramaphosa from appointing him as Tito Mboweni’s successor in August 2021.

And, at least, on the evidence of his MSc from the University of London and his ability to remain ahead of the National Prosecuting Authority, he is no fool.

Certainly, in Ramaphosa’s lurid circus lineup of clowns, cowboys and bearded ladies, Godongwana is an anomaly. The grey man does his job with steady perseverance, without drama and affectation. And maybe best of all, there has been no lecturing.

This is a nation sick to the back teeth of being told by parasitic politicians that our thundering cascade of disasters is actually a blessing in disguise. “Resilient” and its variations have become popular words in the ANC lexicon.

At this year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Cyril Ramaphosa said that despite us being in an “existential” crisis, all would be okay because we’re a nation “defined by hope and resilience” and our “spirit of determination”. We merely need “to stay the course”.

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At last year’s Sona, he told us that although “engaged in a battle for the soul of this country”, all would be okay because, to quote Thabo Mbeki, “trying times need courage and resilience”. “Our strength as a people,” Cyril ended with a flourish, “is not tested during the best of times.”

In 2020 and 2021, Ramaphosa and his then finance minister Tito Mboweni both dug deep in four successive speeches to be inspirational. It became the political equivalent of duelling banjos – in this case duelling botanicals – as each tried to outdo the other in boosting the morale of South Africans with homilies involving indigenous plants.

There was Ramaphosa, wielding our national flower, “the hardy protea”. The protea, he told his listeners, not only survives the fiercest blaze but literally depends on it, in order to release its seed and germinate. This was how South Africa would “phoenix-like” resurrect itself and rise from the ashes of its troubles.

Then came Mboweni, who opted for “the hardy Aloe ferox”, which could survive even while “the tempest is raging”. As would South Africans.

In another budget speech he simpered ingratiatingly that although the “storm is not over” the country would overcome because “Mr President, you are the wise farmer, caring for this Aloe ferox”.

While all this flummery is enough to make a hyena puke, there’s a kernel of truth here.

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Ask any South African to define the undefinable –the defining characteristics of an unusually diverse conglomeration of peoples – and I’d wager that they’re like to come up with phrases that indicate traits like mental toughness, a can-do approach and, yes, resilience.

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