Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

It took former president Jacob Zuma two to three minutes to fire finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, the state capture inquiry heard on Wednesday.

Nene is testifying at the inquiry about his time as finance minister under Zuma, and his interactions with the controversial Gupta family. He was removed as finance minister by Zuma in December 2015 and replaced with little known ANC MP Des van Rooyen. The move sent the rand into free fall.

He was reappointed as finance minister in February 2018 when President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected after Zuma’s resignation.

Nene told the commission that after a marathon cabinet meeting on December 9 2015, he was on his way home when he got a call from the president's office and returned to the Union Buildings.

He said Zuma told him in isiZulu about a Brics bank job at the Africa regional centre, which was going to open in Johannesburg. Nene said Zuma said the matter had been discussed by the ANC top six officials and they agreed he should be placed at the Brics bank.

"I asked when this decision was to take effect and he informed me that he would be making an announcement 'shortly'," Nene said.

"I thanked the president for having provided me the opportunity to serve the country as finance minister. We shook hands and I left. The entire meeting lasted two or three minutes," Nene said.

He said Zuma made no mention of any other reasons for his removal, and he did not ask for the reasons. Nene said this was the first and last time they had ever spoken about the position at the Brics bank.

"It is obvious that the 'deployment' to the Brics bank was a fabrication," he said. "I say this because the president had no authority to offer me a position or to deploy me to a position in the Brics bank."

Nene said he was, in any event, already a governor of Brics, a position more senior than the one Zuma wanted to "deploy" him to.

"Needless to say, the offer did not materialise and the position remained vacant until I returned as minister of finance and appointed the current holder of that position."

quintalg@businesslive.co.za