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Basa: Nene fears worsening ‘jittery’ markets

Uncertainty over the future of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene is leaving markets jittery, in a development the Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) has described as “unfortunate”.

Basa Chairman Mike Brown said on Monday that the markets would be watching closely if there were any change in the critical ministry, with all eyes on the person to replace Nene if he should resign or be axed.

“This is a very unfortunate emerging issue which does not reflect well on our country and shows in the financial markets and the exchange rate,” said Brown, who is also the CEO of Nedbank.

‘Subset of issues’

“There is a combination of the markets being jittery in general, and jittery about emerging markets in particular, and within that context, South Africa now has its own subset of issues,” said Brown, speaking on the sidelines of the Banking Summit in Johannesburg.

“Clearly what the markets would be watching is if there is any change in the finance ministry and if there is, what would be absolutely vital is who replaces Minister Nene.”

It was reported earlier on Monday that Nene had asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties, in the wake of his testimony at the Zondo Commission.

Last week, Nene told the commission of inquiry into state capture that he met with the Guptas four times between 2010 and 2013. There had been an additional meeting in 2014 when the family’s patriarch Ajay had — according to Nene — attempted to extract information from him.

Extremely unfortunate

Brown said it was “extremely unfortunate that the finance minister has come under so much pressure as a consequence of his testimony at the Zondo commission”.

“Clearly we do not yet know enough. We do not know what happened in those meetings … Did anything happen in those meetings … that may have favoured the Gupta family?”

It is still not known how the president will respond to Nene’s request. On Monday, it was widely reported that the Presidency said it was not aware of Nene’s request to step down.

Commenting on the calibre of a possible Nene replacement, Brown said it would be important to find someone who “acts with honesty and integrity”.

“We need someone who is a visionary leader, someone who has a very deep understanding of domestic and international financial markets, and how financial systems work in ways to generate high level of financial growth and job creation,” he said.

Nene was re-appointed finance minister after President Cyril Ramaphosa took office in February this year, making a return to a position he was fired from by former president Jacob Zuma in December 2015. — Fin 24

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