The latest attack by ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe on Nedbank Chairman Reuel Khoza is a step too far. Mr Mantashe’s argument is not only imprudent and inappropriate, but based on flawed logic.
The numerous responses by government and the ANC to Mr Khoza’s chairman’s report have been paranoid and hypersensitive in the extreme, but Mr Mantashe’s recent comments cross the line and raise serious questions about the governing party’s tolerance of public debate and constructive criticism.
In a well-balanced report, Mr Khoza called on government to “create an enabling environment with minimal regulation to enable entrepreneurs to flourish” and for the creation of “a programme to deploy &hellip unemployed graduates and recently qualified people to local authorities for a few years”.
He also pointed out the damaging effect of “leaders who are determined to undermine the rule of law and override the constitution” meaning we are “fast losing the checks and balances that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the past”.
These comments led to a flurry of backlashes from the ANC and government:
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said Mr Khoza is part of an “ideological third force”, and decried the “threats” to our constitution and “lack of leadership in the ANC and society”.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said “Dr Khoza holds in contempt the democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people, and casts the millions that voted this government into power as stupid”.
Government Spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said Mr Khoza’s comments show "disingenuousness, and that his books aren't exactly balanced".
Now, in a diatribe published on Friday, Mr Mantashe claims, “when business develops unpatriotic tendencies through reckless pronouncements, their sentiments are used by potential investors to measure the wisdom of investing in a country where its leadership is openly attacked by their nationals.”
This is one hundred percent incorrect. In fact, foreign direct investment rankings show that those countries that are most politically free – where debate and constructive criticism are not only tolerated, but also encouraged – are those that attract the most Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Countries such as the United States, the Netherlands, France, United Kingdom and Brazil regularly top lists of actual and potential FDI. In contrast, countries like Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Libya, Syria and Ethiopia regularly appear at the bottom of such lists.
The ANC needs to decide if they want South Africa to be a country where diversity of opinion and open debate are encouraged, or a country where the ruling party suppresses democratic debate. Their decision will have a real effect on our country’s potential to attract investment.
In this regard, Mr Mantashe’s recent comments raise serious questions about the ANC’s attitude towards real democracy and threaten to create uncertainty around investing in South Africa.