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Cosatu slams Mboweni for proposing referendum on bailing out SOEs

This after Finance Minister Tito Mboweni took to Twitter at the weekend and said that in a proper democracy there would be a public debate that would lead to the referendum taking place.

FILE: Finance Minister Tito Mboweni addressing the media prior to his annual Budget speech taking place on 20 February 2018 in Cape Town. Pictures: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has slammed a suggestion by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni that a referendum be held on the use of taxpayer’s money to bail out beleaguered state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

This after Mboweni took to Twitter at the weekend and said that in a proper democracy there would be a public debate that would lead to the referendum taking place. He said ordinary citizens should have a say on the use of public funds and not just political parties.

In an earlier tweet, Mboweni also suggested that rogue churches should be taxed or shut down, saying South Africa is a country governed by laws.

However, in an interview with eNCA on Tuesday morning, Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla took a swipe at the finance minister and called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take action against him.

Pamla said Mboweni had behaved like he didn’t want to be part of the sixth administration. He accused Mboweni of failing to raise his views on the country’s economy at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

“President Cyril Ramaphosa at some point needs to look at this for what it is. This is a person who really does not want to be part of the administration. If he really wanted to be part of the administration he would have been at Nedlac and making submissions and proposals in terms of how to fix the problems instead of tweeting about those things,” Pamla told the news channel.

He said Mboweni’s proposal for a referendum on SOEs was “silly”, saying it should be noted that Mboweni was not “tweeting about his private life” on Twitter, but about “[government] policy” given his position in Cabinet as finance minister.

“He sits at Nedlac but he keeps quiet, he doesn’t raise these issues at Nedlac because we have never heard his proposal from him at Nedlac. When he’s at Nedlac he doesn’t say the things that he says on Twitter and that then becomes a problem, because a structure like Nedlac is where we want to hear all views,” Pamla said.

Mboweni’s call for a referendum came on the backdrop of a proposal from Cosatu to use public servants’ pension funds to bail out Eskom, which has been struggling to keep the lights on and is burdened with over R400 billion in debt.

The trade union federation has previously clashed with the finance minister over National Treasury’s economic strategy document unveiled in August last year, taxation, and the scrapping of e-tolls in Gauteng.

Pamla said if Mboweni was frustrated with his working conditions in government, then he should resign.

“…He can leave, he doesn’t have to be a finance minister. We have people who are capable and who can actually replace him tomorrow. So, if he feels strongly about issues, he doesn’t have to be a finance minister. That is our call to him, we dare him in saying he can pack his bags and leave.”

Mboweni is expected to table this year’s budget in Parliament on 26 February. On Monday, Moody’s Investors Service revised its forecast for SA’s economic growth this year to 0.7% and 0.9% for next year.

Moody’s is the only major ratings agency to still have the country at investment grade.

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