/ 9 October 2018

Nene out: Tito Mboweni appointed new finance minister

Nhlanhla Nene at the commission of inquiry into state capture.
Nhlanhla Nene at the commission of inquiry into state capture. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation has been accepted, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday and announced the appointment of Tito Mboweni as the new finance minister.

In a statement late on Tuesday afternoon at Tuynhuys in Cape Town, Ramaphosa said: “Minister Nene this morning submitted a letter of resignation to me in which he requested that I should relieve him”.

The president said that the Nene had made the request because his testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry would “detract from the important task of serving the people of South Africa… as we work to re-establish trust in government”.

His resignation was made in “the interests of good governance,” said Ramaphosa.

Following Ramaphosa’s announcement, the rand strengthened to R14.70 to the dollar.

During his tenure as finance minister, Nene served with “diligence and great ability,” said Ramaphosa. Nene had “served our people under very difficult circumstances” and had consistently defended clean government.

His resignation was a measure of his commitment, in the wake of errors of judgment, said Ramaphosa, “even though he has not been implicated in any act of wrongdoing himself”.

Ramaphosa added that anyone testifying before the commission of inquiry into state capture should do so “honestly” and that those involved in state capture need to be identified.

“It is critical that the commission has the means and opportunity to effectively fulfill its mandate. In this process no person should be above scrutiny and no person should be above the law,” Ramaphosa said.

Since Nene admitted last week at the commission of inquiry into state capture to having multiple meetings with Gupta family between 2010 and 2014, pressure has been mounting on Ramaphosa to sack him.

The meetings took place at the family’s Saxonwold compound in Johannesburg, and the Gupta-owned Sahara Computers headquarters in Midrand. At the time of the meetings, Nene was deputy finance minister.

But Nene’s confession at the inquiry came as a surprise, as he had previously denied meeting with the politically connected family, telling eNCA in April 2016 that he had only seen them during “public gatherings”.

“Look, I bumped into them in public gatherings once or twice, but I never had an engagement and I’ve never been asked by them to do anything for them,” Nene said during the interview (at the 7:47 mark in the below video).

The Economic Freedom Fighters alleged that Nene had allowed his son, Siyabonga, to benefit from the Public Investment Corporation unduly. Nene denied the claims. However, the Mail & Guardian revealed on Friday that in 2014 the PIC — which Nene chaired — had gone to great lengths to assist Siyabonga’s business partner in a venture in Mozambique.

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

On Friday afternoon, Nene released a statement apologising to the nation for not fully disclosing his meetings with the Gupta family.

Thus far, the Presidency has kept mum on the saga, with the ANC declining to divulge any discussions that have occured since Nene appeared at the state capture inquiry. However, the party’s top six reportedly met over the weekend to discuss the current Cabinet.

Nene has long been perceived as an adversary to state capture, and as one of the few who stood his ground against former president Jacob Zuma. According to Nene’s testimony at the state capture inquiry, it was his firm stance against the nuclear deal which led to Zuma removing him as finance minister in December 2015.

His shock removal — in a late night statement by the Presidency — sent the rand into freefall, led to outrage against Zuma, and was among the first inklings that something was drastically amiss under Zuma’s administration.

Nene returned to the finance minister seat in February 2018, after he was appointed to the position in Ramaphosa’s new cabinet.