Lesetja Kganyago: The perfect example of good cadre deployment

Bonke Dumisa says the new Reserve Bank governor is not only highly competent, but understands how the ANC works


It did not come as a surprise to many people that President Jacob Zuma appointed Lesetja Kganyago as the new Governor of the South African Reserve Bank. It was a good appointment that all South Africans and the international financial markets have welcomed with open arms; this was supported by the immediate improvement of the Rand/ US Dollar value on the day of the announcement.

What many people may not realise is that the South African liberation struggle was not just about the armed struggle, strikes, and consumer boycotts. Behind the scenes, there was an active preparation of many blacks to get involved in and even to lead in many areas which had been previously "no go areas" for the oppressed masses.

It was against this background that the 1980s and the early 1990s saw thousands of black South Africans being given scholarships to go and study in the USA and in the United Kingdom. This was not just an act of generosity by the USA and the UK governments and their institutions. 

Having been perceived negatively by many black South Africans for having supported the apartheid regime; and also for having been seen to be breaking or resisting the economic sanctions against South Africa; the USA and the UK governments and their institutions soon accepted that the apartheid days were numbered and that they needed the future leaders of this country to be on the side of "the West" instead of being on the side of "the Communist Bloc".

It was against this background that the British Council and the UK educational institutions admitted many black South Africans to study in the United Kingdom, especially in areas where there were limited opportunities for blacks under apartheid. The University of London played a crucial role in the training of many black South Africans in the fields of law, finance, economics, industrial relations, human resources management, and other fields at both the London School of Economics (LSE) and at its sister tertiary campus The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Lesetja Kganyago was one of those people who studied economics at the University of London. What is more important about his studies at SOAS was that there was a special desk, at the LSE, specialising on researching the future of South African economic policy formulation; this desk was run by none other than our ultra-competent Maria Ramos, the former Treasury Director-General who now heads ABSA, or Barclays Africa as it is now known.     

It is significant to note that other than his MSc he got from the University of London; Kganyago has received extensive professional training at many other top academic institutions, including the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) and Harvard University; and also got specialised economics and other management training at many other top institutions from all over the word.

It is also noteworthy that he once worked as a lowly Assistant Manager for Investment Dealings at the South African Reserve Bank way back in 1994; and also worked as a lowly clerk at the First National Bank. Just these two junior positions clearly indicate that Kganyago personally understands the workings of the South African banking industry from different perspectives, from the lowest employee levels to the highest levels.

His various management roles at the National Treasury, over the fifteen years he worked there, from 1996 to 2011, confirm he is a stable person who was on a definite mission to play a major role in our economic policy implementation since his early days at the University of London more than twenty years ago. No one can deny the fact that he did a sterling job as the Director-General of the National Treasury, under both Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan.

What makes him more suitable for this position, other than his academic background and his career advancements, is that he fully understands how the ANC ruling party works, because he worked for the ANC, as a National Co-ordinator at its Economics Department, at the crucial time when the ANC was still busy working on its various economic policy options and scenarios. This puts him in a good position to understand what informed and still informs the various monetary positions the ANC government has taken since it started running the country in 1994.

Another cherry on top is that he also worked for the trade union federation COSATU as its Accountant; and that puts him at an advantage in understanding what informs the thinking of trade unionists when they attack some of the decisions taken by the National Treasury and / or the South African Reserve Bank. It is a pity that Castro Ngobese of NUMSA (the national union of metalworkers of South Africa) has decided to go on the offensive by labelling Kganyago "a capitalist neo-liberal"; most of us must simply dismiss these early NUMSA criticisms of Kganyago as simple sabre-rabbling. 

Another unique characteristic of Kganyago is that "he is part of the people"; he is said to  have his feet on the ground, in that he is seen as one of those high-flying technocrats who are perceived to be mix well with "the masses". This puts him in a good position to fully understand the concerns of the ordinary people; and how some of the difficult decisions he had to make in the past at the National Treasury and the Reserve Bank may have unavoidably adversely affected some of the country's citizens.

For example, the very good decision to either increase or keep the repo rate the same is generally good for the national economy; but some old people who rely on their savings for their monthly upkeep would rather prefer if interest rates increased. Kganyago can be in a better position to explain this Reserve Bank's dilemma to ordinary citizens in the language and manner that most South Africans can understand and identify with, even if they initially did not like those Reserve Bank decisions.

In short, Kganyago will not have a problem filling the "BIG Shoes" of Gill Marcus; he will hit the ground running, because his feet are already there; and he is definitely not just a beneficiary of "cadre deployment", despite the fact that he was groomed from the very early age by the ANC for such top strategic positions.

The mere fact that all the political parties have welcomed this good appointment, despite knowing that Kganyago is an "ANC Cadre Deployee", shows that South Africans are not necessarily opposed to former politically active people being appointed to top positions; the problem that most people have with cadre deployment is when many ill-qualified people get appointed to top positions purely on grounds of political affiliation.

Lesetja Kganyago is a perfect example of good cadre deployment, where there is a need for political-compatibility in areas of strategic policy directions for the country. 

Dr Bonke Dumisa is an Independent Economic Analyst, an Advocate of the High Courts of South Africa and Lesotho, and a former University Professor who got his MSc degree from the same University of London as the new Governor of the Reserve Bank.

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