Meet South Africa’s new Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana

Enoch Godongwana will succeed Tito Mboweni as South Africa’s new Finance Minister.

On 5 August, during a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that ANC economic policy head Enoch Godongwana would take over from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who requested to step down from the post.

A lifelong career in politics
Godongwana was born in Cala in the Eastern Cape and matriculated from St John’s College in Mthatha. He has an MSc in financial economics from the University of London.

His career started in the trade union movement, where he served as a shop steward in the Metal and Allied Workers’ Union in 1979 and later as an organiser for the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa). By 1994, he was general secretary of the union and served on the executive of Cosatu.

From 1994 to 2004 he served as the Eastern Cape’s MEC for provincial treasury, economic affairs, environment and tourism.

Godongwana became a member of the ANC’s national executive and economic transformation committees, and in 2009 was appointed by former president Jacob Zuma as Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, and the following year appointed Deputy Minister of Economic Development.

He is currently chairperson of the Development Bank of Southern Africa. He has been a non-executive director of Mondi for the past two years and was appointed as director of Platinum Group Metals in June.

His fair share of legal cases
In 2004, Godongwana was fired by the Eastern Cape’s former premier Nosimo Balindlela following a report into financial irregularities. The Pillay Commission was scrapped after Godongwana, along with former premier Makhenkesi Stofile (now Minister of Sport) and two other senior ANC politicians from the province, Stone Sizani and Mcebisi Jonas, challenged the commission.

"The report is declared a nullity and of no force and effect," Grahamstown Judge Daylan Chetty said at the time, after Stofile’s successor Nosimo Balindlela failed to extend the commission's life beyond September 2006.

Later, Godongwana resigned from the role of Deputy Minister of Economic Development in 2012 at a time where questions were being raised about his links to an investment company called Canyon Springs, which reportedly borrowed R100 million of clothing industry workers’ pension money that was never repaid.

At the time, Godongwana testified that he was unaware that the loan came from a union pension fund. As a former union man he did not wish to be associated with a scheme whose main purpose was to cream off workers’ retirement funds, Godongwana had said in his testimony. He added that he had got involved in Canyon Springs in good faith, and had not known what type of scheme it was.

His economic thinking
Godongwana has made it known that he is conservative when it comes to new taxes and the need for investment, and quite convinced of the moral need for a basic income grant or something similar.

“It is a reasonable and legitimate call given the high level of poverty,” wrote Godongwana in a recent column. "No one would disagree with the need to protect vulnerable members of our society."

South Africa requires pro-investment reforms, Godongwana believes, and must get money – both public and private – flowing into economic and social infrastructure.

Earlier this year he bluntly told an ANC policy discussion that the government was spending on the wrong things, and that SA “can't tax our way out” of the economic crisis, pointing to recent tax increases that did not yield substantial additional revenue.

He has also authored a column in Business Day with a broad outline of what he thinks South Africa needs to fix unemployment, saying: “The structural nature of unemployment requires a multipronged approach, combined with a growth strategy. While it is a broad concept, I will confine myself to one element of an active labour market policy, helping young people transition to work.”