SOUTH Africans love a positive story. Contrary to what prickly, paranoid politicians and officials like want to believe, we actually want them to succeed. Because their success is our country’s success.
In my experience, South Africans are generally lavish with their compliments. Cheers of “give that man a Bell’s” or “So-and-so for president’’ ring loudly every time they encounter an inspirational, logical and successful person.
And through my radio platform, I know it does not matter from which background the achiever comes. Most citizens applaud excellence, integrity and good, old-fashioned competence.
It is in the same spirit that many South Africans have met the news of the appointment of the new Reserve Bank governor, Lesetja Kganyago.
The financial services sector reacted most positively to the announcement that the former director-general of the treasury will take over from the equally impressive Gill Marcus.
Even our volatile currency strengthened slightly at the announcement. It could be that the markets were relieved that someone from within the ranks of the central bank was chosen to take over, thereby signalling continuity of the current policy.
It might have been his sterling history as the director-general during the tenures of former ministers Trevor Manual and Pravin Gordhan that won him the appointment.
He is, after all, one of the longest-serving directors-general in South Africa.
Kganyago also has a long history in Cosatu and this may work in his favour, given the often polarised stances on monetary policy.
Kganyago has his work cut out for him. Navigating volatile markets and keeping different stakeholders satisfied requires nerves of steel. He seems to be under no illusions about the task ahead.
He has a formidable academic background with a degree in accounting and economics and a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics.
There are more qualifications and prestigious positions to add to his first-rate CV, but the point is, a combination of qualifications, hard work, competence and commitment is a winner with South Africans.
The warm reception that Kganyago’s appointment received is also a reflection of a wary public that is no longer used to credible appointments.
When they do happen, we feel as if we have hit the jackpot. In some instances, people who have indeed been worthy of their positions have bowed to political pressure and taken decisions that were in their own best interests, instead of those of the country.
I remember interviewing Kganyago when he was still the DG of finance. It became customary that the day after the minister’s budget, he would be on the radio, explaining the budget in the simplest possible terms. In one instance, the most talked-about issue of an otherwise comprehensive budget was the announcement of a bailout for the national airline.
South Africans were hostile to the idea of aid from the state coffers for an entity that should be competitive and profitable. He was very frank in his response and had harsh words for the South African Airways leadership of the time. He said: “The citizens are correct. This is not sustainable; it is bad business practice. And the government should not make a habit of extending money that it does not have, to SAA.” Sadly, SAA’s begging bowl has become bigger.
Kganyago has his work cut out for him. Navigating volatile markets and keeping different stakeholders satisfied requires nerves of steel. He seems to be under no illusions about the task ahead. Shortly after the announcement he summed it up this way: “I have no doubt that eyes will be on me, and I want to say I will not disappoint. I do not take this task for granted.”
And that is all that South Africans yearn for: leaders who do not take their positions for granted and, most importantly, leaders who understand that when all current generations have passed on, of our hearts have stopped beating, South Africa must continue to thrive.