Nene: The Tweets that made us laugh (and cry)

No laughing matter: Zuma removed Nene as finance minister on Wednesday night. (Gallo)

No laughing matter: Zuma removed Nene as finance minister on Wednesday night. (Gallo)

Shock, dismay, and outrage have been just a few of the reactions South Africans have had to former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s dismissal on Wednesday. Nene’s removal is no laughing matter, but as always, beleaguered South Africans turned to humour to ease the burden as they watched the rand fall. 

The news hit the Twittersphere hard on Wednesday evening, where commentators began digging into the reasons for Nene’s removal. The news was a shock given that Nene had been sacked midterm after just 19 months in his position as finance minister.
Arguably, the worst reaction came in the form of the rand, which plummeted when news of Nene’s removal went public. The Twitterati mourned into their keyboards as they watched the currency fall.


South Africans lamented Nene’s removal with nostalgia over his most memorable moments in government: like that time he fell off his chair in an SABC interview. Despite the teasing, many South Africans also lambasted President Zuma’s dismissal of Nene, speculating it was because the former finance minister took national airline SAA to task for irresponsible finance management. The timing of Nene’s dismissal came just a week after Nene shot down SAA’s airbus bid – a move which drew much support. 

But the exact time everyone knew about the minister’s sacking was around 8pm on Wednesday, which got people criticising President Zuma’s awkward timing, because how must one back one’s desk so late at night?


The news that ANC MP David van Rooyen would take over Nene’s footsteps didn’t do much to comfort South Africans on Twitter. Many of them confusedly asked who this van Rooyen chap is. Nene was the first black South African to hold the position of finance minister, and although van Rooyen will become the second, his name provoked some serious side-eye, before his picture went viral. 

Still, the details around why van Rooyen had been chosen to replace Nene were a mystery. Instead of spending too much time speculating, South Africans did what they do best – found a theme song to their struggle.


In true Twitter fashion a David van Rooyen parody account popped up almost immediately. Sensing the doubt South Africans had in his ability to take the nation forward, the fake van Rooyen profile sent out a tweet to reassure.


But perhaps the van Rooyen parody account’s attempt to reassure, actually had some people Googling when the next flight leaves South Africa.


Speculation is continuing to mount about who will be axed next in the cabinet, with Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande taking most of the heat. 2016 may be a year for job hunting for one of these ministers, but the plot twists have yet to be revealed.


Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t all fun and games in the Twitterati, especially when businessman Glenn Agliotti invoked the proverb that everything was better in the good old days. The apartheid days, that is.


Meanwhile analyses are pouring in around Nene’s dismissal, the state of the economy, and what it will mean for the ANC. There’s only one immediate analysis that really matters, though.

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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