National Treasury director-general had last week suggested that left-wing pressure groups were trying to mislead legislators
THE DIRECTOR-general of South Africa’s National Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, on Tuesday apologised to Parliament’s standing and select committees on finance after a fiery exchange last week prompted by his suggestion that left-wing pressure groups were trying to mislead legislators.
“I think it is appropriate if you just allow me to offer my sincere apologies to the joint committees … It was certainly not my intention to offend the joint committees in any way,” Mogajane said during another hearing.
“I do believe in the integrity of Parliament as a cornerstone of our democracy. I did not intend in any way to dictate to Parliament how it should respond to civil society and other organisations. I believe that we should openly debate matters, where need be, with civil society, with any other stakeholder out there, we are welcome and open for that and, Chair, we will certainly create an opportunity to engage on any matter.”
Mogajane added a call that such policy debates should, however, be “fact based”.
On Friday, he had vigorously defended the finance ministry’s plans to stabilise debt, set out in Minister Tito Mboweni’s Covid-19 special adjustment budget.
The plan has come in for strong criticism from left-wing quarters. Some economists said the fact that R130 billion of the R500 billion (US$29.3 billion) additional budget was being derived from reprioritising earlier allocations, effectively meant that Mboweni was reneging on spending commitments made by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Mogajane said this line of argument amounted to the deception of Parliament and the public.
He singled out the Budget Justice Coalition and economists who have urged members of Parliament to vote against the budget, accusing them of politically attacking Mboweni without basis in order to court media attention.
The Treasury director-general said their call to block the adjustment budget was based on the false assumption that Ramaphosa had committed the government to increasing spending on net basis by R500 billion, and questioned why such critics were attempting to conjure up a clash between the president and the finance minister.
He added: “Parliament should be wary of allowing itself to be used as a platform for false, misleading statements.”
The remarks angered the chairman of the select committee on finance, Yunus Carrim, who replied: “You have no right to suggest that we will be used either by civil society or by yourselves, Treasury.
“Some of the things you are saying border on actually insulting the committee,” Carrim added.
– African News Agency (ANA)