Tito Mboweni appointed new finance minister after Nhlanhla Nene’s abrupt resignation

Lesetja Kganyago

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed former central bank Governor Tito Mboweni as his finance minister on Tuesday, replacing Nhlanhla Nene, who lied about his meetings with three businessmen accused of plundering state funds.

Last Wednesday, while giving testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture, Nene admitted he had met with the controversial Gupta family at least six times at their Saxonwold home during his tenures as deputy finance minister as well as during the early stages of his first stint as head of Treasury.

The Business Day on Monday reported that Nene had asked president Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties as finance minister.

"It's a measure of his character and commitment to the country that he has made a decision to resign in spite not being implicated in any wrongdoing", the president said.

By accepting Mr. Nene's resignation, Mr. Ramaphosa is setting a tough new standard for corruption issues.

All the while, the country's third largest political party, the EFF had been shouting from the side-lines for Nene to "come clean", threatening to expose him if he did otherwise. Many ministers in his cabinet and the previous Zuma cabinets have held meetings with the Guptas, and some have provided favours to the family.

Until the latest revelations, Mr. Nene was widely seen as a hero of the resistance to corruption. Five months after refusing to sign a letter of guarantee that would have given the project to Russia's state-controlled nuclear energy company, Mr. Nene was sacked from Mr. Zuma's cabinet and was briefly replaced by a pro-Gupta minister.

Nene was born on December 5, 1958, and appointed finance minister on February 27, 2018. The nuclear project was eventually shelved.

"Mboweni possesses the necessary integrity, skills set and experience which can generate confidence in the markets, among investors and generally in the business community", said Raymond Parsons, a professor at the North West University's School of Business and Governance.

The local currency, which briefly fell below 15/$ in the early afternoon on Tuesday as uncertainty around the fate of Nhlanhal Nene lingered, ended up 1.8% stronger against the greenback, an indication of positive market reaction to the appointment of finance chief of the former SA Reserve Bank governor.

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