Nene faces severe credibility problem as mid-term budget looms

As South Africa prepares for a mid-term budget — due to be delivered in two weeks’ time — rumours are flying thick and fast about the fate of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. 

Some say that his term as minister is likely to come to an abrupt end, following reports that he asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to release him. If that’s the case, it will be the second time that he fails to complete a term as minister.

READ MORE: The finance minister, his son and the Mozambican refinery

The development follows Nene’s apology to South Africans about having met the controversial Gupta family at their home instead of his office.

Nene admitted, while giving testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry, that he had visited the Gupta home no less than six times when he served as deputy finance minister and at the start of his tenure as minister.

He was fired in what he claimed was a two-to-three-minute meeting with former president Jacob Zuma in December 2015. He claims it was over his refusal to toe the line over a possible nuclear deal with Russia.

There has been much talk about finding a replacement for Nene. Rumour has it that Barbara Creecy — who serves as Gauteng’s finance MEC — tops possible replacement lists.

Commenting on the issue, research director at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, Ralph Mathekga, said: “Nene is going to be a liability.”

“My view is that the credibility problem that Nene has run into is very severe.”

Mathekga said Nene deliberately allowed South Africans to create an anti-corruption character out of his struggles with Zuma, saying that he played along with this while fully aware that it was a lie.

“Half of the discussions are not going to be about the substance of the budget. The Nene crisis will cloud the budget,” Mathekga warned.

“Already the cloud is gathering around this man who is going to deliver the budget. We are not going to focus on the budget but the credibility of the messenger,” insisted Mathekga.

READ MORE: Did Nene Jr deal with the Guptas?

Wits School of Governance’s Professor Ivor Sarakinsky shares this view, but believes the story has moved on from the embattled finance minister to his boss, Ramaphosa.

“If you are going to have someone delivering something as important as the mid-term budget, you are going to need for there to be no ambiguity about it. It’s a very, very important document,” said Sarakinsky.

Describing Ramaphosa’s latest challenge as being caught between a rock and a hard place, the governance professor said Nene had left it up to the president to decide whether he had been doing a good job or deserved to be fired.

“He has to weigh up whether he can he afford to have someone facing serious controversy to deliver that (the mid-term budget) or would it be astute to get a new person in?” Sarakinsky asked.

The professor said the added difficulty for Ramaphosa came with trying to please markets, overseas investors and overall perceptions during an already difficult economic period.

Ramaphosa is yet to make a statement about the allegations. — News 24

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Matshidiso Madia
Tshidi Madia
Love & Light•Journalist•decided to call myself a lover of things cause you know.
Advertisting

Odd drop in how Covid-19 numbers grow

As the country hunkers down for a second week of lockdown, how reliable is the data available and will it enable a sound decision for whether South Africans can leave their homes on April 16?

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders