Finance Minister Tito Mboweni extols the virtues of the Aloe ferox plant as he delivers his 2019 Budget speech in Parliament on in Cape Town yesterday. PHOTO: Gallo Images

1. In the most downbeat Budget in many years, finance minister Tito Mboweni tried in vain to put a shine on a pretty bleak situation.

The 'highlights' included a pledge of R69 billion to Eskom over the next three years - despite Treasury taking a hard line on the embattled utility. It is demanding that a  "chief reorganisation officer" be appointed to ensure that taxpayer money is protected as Eskom is split into three units. 

Read: 14 surprises in this year’s Budget – including a new national theatre and a shock fuel tax

There was no shortage of bad news for consumers - while VAT wasn't hiked, sin taxes shot higher and a new carbon fuel tax was introduced. (In all, fuel levies will go up by 29c in the next months.) And for the first time since the early 1990s, there will be no inflationary adjustments on personal income tax rates. Which means you will pay more tax if you get a raise.

2. The rand initially slumped to R14.35/$ following the news of the R69 billion pledge for Eskom, but by evening it recovered to below R14.00 - last trading at R14.00 as the market fully digested the budget.

3. Moody's - the only investment rating agency which hasn't (yet) downgraded South Africa to 'junk' - said the Budget "highlights the government’s limited fiscal flexibility amid a challenging economic environment". Moody's is scheduled to announce its ratings decision on March 29.

4. Tiger Brands - owner of Tastic rice, Jungle Oats, All Gold, Albany bread and other brands - has seen sales of its products rise 1% in the past four months. The company was hit hard after its polony was linked to the deadly listeria bacteria last year. After a long withdrawal, it has resumed polony sales and Tiger Brands says it has been "well received". The company, which is being sued by the families of listeria victims, said in its trading update yesterday that it had "appropriate" liability insurance.  Its share price jumped 5%.

5. The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants has stripped the former VBS chairperson, Tshifhiwa Matodzi, of his registration. Matodzi won't be recognised as a chartered accountant any longer. 

Mboweni's best Budget quotes

Despite having to deliver grim fiscal news, finance minister Tito Mboweni was in top form during his Budget speech and the preceding press briefing.

Here were some of his choice remarks:

On state-owned enterprises

“Pouring money directly into Eskom in its current form is like pouring water into a sieve. I want to make it clear: Government is not taking on Eskom’s debt."
"The SOEs pose very serious risks to the fiscal framework. Funding requests from SAA, SABC, Denel, Eskom and other financially challenged state-owned enterprises have increased, with several requesting state support just to continue operating. Isn’t it about time the country asks the question: do we still need these enterprises? If we do, can we manage them better? If we don’t need them, what should we do?"
"We want to look after every rand and cent provided," he said. "There is no free lunch here."
In the private sector, where I was, if a business unit doesn't work, you shut it down. There's no emotional connection. But in government, there are lots of things to consider.

On SAA

“If it was up to me I would rather give money to Prasa and Railway than give money to SAA. We need to help those who get to work.”

On the Road Accident Fund

“(It) should be responsibility of individuals to take insurance when they buy a car."

On the SABC

"If they get the R6.8bn they want, the chief reorganisation officer that is dealing with Eskom will be on his way to Auckland Park. My advice to the SABC is to stay far away from National Treasury. But we will find a way to help them,

On immigrants

"The final challenge is nationalism. In many successful economies, immigrants have been a source of dynamism. Narrow nationalism often leads to stagnation. We need to redouble our efforts to attract highly-skilled people to South Africa."

On rendering unto Caesar

Thuma Mina. Pay your municipal bills on time.

On the president's predilection for summits

South Africans are just like the president, he likes summits. So let's have a summit to discuss where to go with state owned enterprises.

On his DG's traffic offence

Mboweni lashed out at public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who published a report that recommended action against Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane for failing to declare a traffic offence conviction. Mboweni is taking the recommendation on judicial review.

'Speedy' Mogajane is a good Christian.

On his own pay packet

That's one of the things I've noticed going back to the public sector: they don't pay you. The minister of finance, the minister of arts and culture all get the same. It really doesn't work. I need to form a trade union of my own.

On whether he will stay on as minister of finance after the general elections

I made a deal with the deputy president (David Mabuza) and told him if he and his party win elections, then I won't abandon you so quick[ly]. So I'm happy to stick around. I am just waiting to see if they will win. I will be around for a while, don't worry about that.

Quoting from the Bible in his Budget speech

For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12
For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their due; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
Zechariah 8 verse 12

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23