Gigaba swings left wants radically changed economy

New Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba says "we need to radically transform the South African economy" while pledging to maintain fiscal stability.

Newly appointed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba was swarmed by the media shortly after the swearing in ceremony of President Jacob Zuma’s new cabinet in Pretoria on 31 March 2017. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

PRETORIA - New Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba signalled a swing to the left on Saturday, saying "we need to radically transform the South African economy" while pledging to maintain fiscal stability.

Gigaba also said during a televised news conference that he was committed to protecting South Africa's cherished investment-grade credit ratings, which analysts have said are threatened after the removal of his predecessor Pravin Gordhan.

Radical economic change in the political language of the African National Congress (ANC) means the redistribution of wealth, land and opportunity to the black majority.

"The ownership of wealth and assets remains concentrated in the hands of a small part of the population. This must change," Gigaba said.

He acknowledged the political challenges he faces. President Jacob Zuma's midnight sacking of the widely-respected Gordhan shook South African markets on Friday, undermining his authority and threatening to split the ANC that has governed since the end of apartheid.

"I am fully aware that we are at a highly politicised, polarised and contentious moment in the history of our young democracy. I will not be distracted by external issues," Gigaba, who was previously Home Affairs minister, said.

But he said fiscal policy would not be done simply in the interests of big business and capital.

"For too long, there has been a narrative or perception around Treasury, that it belongs primarily and exclusively to ‘orthodox’ economists, big business, powerful interests and international investors. With respect, this is a people’s government," he said.

Meanwhile, Gigaba said he had no income other than what he receives from his roles in government.

He said he was not beholden to any special interests.

“I have no business interests. I am not involved in any business. I do not earn any income from anybody.”

On Friday, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said Gigaba's lifestyle was funded by the Gupta family, who have close ties with Zuma.