CAPE TOWN, October 9 – Former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni was on Tuesday sworn in as South Africa’s new finance minister after President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation as finance minister.
Nene fell on his sword in a letter to the president on Tuesday after confessing that he had met repeatedly with the Gupta family who are at the centre of the state capture scandal over a five-year period.
Ramaphosa said it was a measure of Nene’s integrity that he offered to step down because he believed the revelations would prove a distraction to a vital task.
Mboweni was appointed governor of the central bank in 1999 and held the post for ten years and Ramaphosa said he believed he would prove invaluable to his administration as it seeks to create jobs.
After he was sworn in as finance minister at Tuynhuis, Ramaphosa shook his hand and quipped: “You can now get ready for your first Cabinet meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.”
As Mboweni was leaving Tuynhuis, Mboweni declined all comment on the economy and his policy priorities, instead merely quipping to reporters: “The president has taken my freedom away.”
Asked by journalists when he was informed of his appointment, Mbowni said he received a call just after 9pm on Monday night.
As the author of South Africa’s policy of inflation targeting, Mboweni is a known quantity to the markets and the rand strengthened slightly against the dollar on the news of his appointment.
Ramaphosa has been under pressure to act against Nene since last week when he admitted before the Zondo inquiry into state capture scandal that he had met with the Gupta family half a dozen times at their home and business premises between 2009 and 2014, but denied helping to further their interests. In 2016, he had said in a media interview that he had only ever encountered members of the family by chance.
The president said Nene had offered to fall on his sword for fear that the revelations would have a negative impact on the country and his ability to do his job.
He then thanked him for his service, and stressed that he had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing, but hastened to add that he was adamant the commission should expose the full of extent of wrongdoing in the scandal that came to define the Jacob Zuma presidency and continues to haunt other ministers in Ramaphosa’s cabinet.
Ironically, Nene was fired by former president Zuma for obstructing his controversial plans to procure more nuclear power plants.(ANA)