Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni was forced out of the job. This is the unanimous conclusion of people who were party to discussions about his replacement at the highest levels of government.
President Jacob Zuma told a press conference on Sunday that he had wanted to keep Mboweni but was Âletting him go to ”pursue other opportunities”. In fact Mboweni had been told a week earlier that his appointment would not be renewed and he had reacted angrily, according to three people who took part in the process.
But the presidency had a difficult time deciding how to communicate the decision without creating the impression that he was fired. One factor, it seems, was the influence of Zuma’s Cosatu and SACP allies, who found Mboweni arrogant and had consistently fought with him over what they saw as his tough inflation targeting.
But Mboweni’s tendency to throw his weight around and his refusal to attempt political conciliation were also factors. ”Officials of the ANC feel very strongly that he was becoming too big for his boots. There was a strong feeling that there were other people who could do the job,” said one insider.
Last Friday night, just 36 hours ahead of the announcement, Mboweni was still angrily resisting plans to have him ”step down”, according to another source who was directly involved in the process.
This person said that discussions among presidency and treasury officials suggested that Mboweni had relied too heavily on the notion that the markets regarded him as indispensable: ”If he didn’t think he was bigger than the ANC, he wouldn’t be in this trouble.”
The final decision on his successor, Gill Marcus, appears to have been a last-minute effort, too, although she had been seen as a leading contender for some time.
Marcus appears to have been formally approached just last week and was seen going to a meeting with Zuma on June 19 at the presidential guest house in Pretoria. Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi also met Zuma at the guest house that morning.
There were a few other names in play, according to a source who advised the presidency on the process, but Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan, who has worked closely with Marcus, pushed strongly for her appointment.
Another factor in Mboweni’s exit was that he was briefly associated with Cope after its members suggested that he could be the party’s presidential candidate during the elections.
Mboweni was initially dismissive of the Zuma camp, another source said, but had gradually changed. He had publicly said he would serve another term if asked to.