“THE PURSUIT OF COMMON GOOD MUST BE THE PRIMARY GOAL”
The Jesuit Institute South Africa joins the chorus of voices from all sectors of South African society expressing serious concern over the removal of Nhlanhla Nene as the country’s Minister of Finance. This move, announced by President Jacob Zuma, spells disaster for the stability of an embattled economy and raises questions about his ability to lead.
Moments after the announcement was made the local currency plummeted, hitting an all time low against the US dollar. Zuma offered no explanation for what seems to be a grossly irresponsible decision.
There seems to be no doubt that the President fired Nene because he would not allow Zuma and some of his cadres to spend money recklessly, for personal gain, and in so doing risk the integrity of the Treasury. Nene insisted on tight fiscal discipline in the face of a growing deficit and a worrying economic forecast.
Nene did not bow to political pressure. He would not sanction the revision of a deal to buy new aircraft for South African Airways. The airline’s board chairperson, Dudu Myeni (who is also chair of the Jacob Zuma Foundation), was unhappy and appears to have used her personal relationship with the President to influence this decision.
Nene was also cautious not to back a R1 trillion nuclear building deal, which Zuma was personally invested in.
Speaking on our own continent recently, Pope Francis said in Kenya: “In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal.” Nene’s removal is not good news for South Africa, it compromises the common good. Pope Francis appealed to leaders to “work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society.”
The people of South Africa will bear the brunt of a questionable decision. This will have far reaching consequences for all South Africans but most especially the poor, who are most vulnerable. Zuma’s decision, by all accounts, fails the common good. Is it a decision for his own narrow self-interest and those around him? It does not foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of South African society.
Pope Francis also told Kenyans, “Corruption is something that gets inside of us, it’s like sugar, but it ends badly. When we have too much sugar, we end up with diabetes, or our country ends up being diabetic.” The Holy Father went on to say that “corruption is the path to death.”
For the sake of the common good and clarity, the Jesuit Institute calls on President Jacob Zuma to give an honest and transparent explanation for his decision.
Furthermore, the Jesuit Institute urges the African National Congress (ANC), who fought tirelessly to liberate the people of this country and lead them to freedom, to act on anything which compromises the common good. The ANC stated that it is committed to fighting corruption. If any corruption is suspected we call on the ANC to act timeously and decisively to avert further damage.
We call on all bodies, institutions, and citizens to demand accountability of those in public office. Our integrity and our very future are at stake.