President Cyril Ramaphosa and new finance minister Tito Mboweni on October 9 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
President Cyril Ramaphosa and new finance minister Tito Mboweni on October 9 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Tito Mboweni’s appointment as finance minister has been welcomed by the ANC’s alliance partners, with union federation Cosatu saying it hopes the move will stabilise the Treasury. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday afternoon that he had accepted Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation following public pressure over his testimony at the state-capture inquiry, at which he admitted to meeting the Gupta family on numerous occasions, including at their private Saxonwold home.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said it was happy the president had acted on the matter, as the federation had been calling on him to be decisive. “What we need right now is someone like him to come in and provide the necessary leadership to make sure he has all the stakeholders on board in terms of working together to find ways of kick-starting the economy.” 

Pamla said Mboweni had Cosatu’s support, and that historical battles they had with him during his tenure as governor of the Reserve Bank, would be left “for now”, because “we have a crisis”.

“We have a long history of fighting with him when he was Reserve Bank governor. We are not going to go back there. What we want is for this country to go forward.”

The SACP’s deputy secretary-general Solly Mapaila, while also welcoming Mboweni’s appointment, thanked Nene for his efforts and for being honest. “We would like to thank him for refusing to sell our country to the highest bidder when he rejected the nuclear deal.” 

Nene was axed from the finance minister position in December 2015 by then president Jacob Zuma, after he refused to sign off on a nuclear deal with the Russians, despite being pressured to do so, according to his testimony at the state-capture inquiry. “That action is highly commendable. We will, for a long time, be indebted to him,” Mapaila said. 

The ANC said in a statement that Ramaphosa’s decisions were bold and timely. “The ANC, therefore, warmly congratulates Comrade Tito Mboweni on his appointment as the new minister of finance, signaling the return to government of a highly accomplished leader and executive, as well as a renowned stalwart of our liberation movement.”

Even the opposition approves

The DA’s David Maynier also congratulated Mboweni on his appointment. “With his experience, the new finance minister will have the advantage of being able to hit the ground running and is, at least, known to market participants, ratings agencies and international financial institutions, who closely follow events in SA.”

He said that the DA was, however, “concerned” that during the years that he was out in the political cold, “he often came over on social media, at least, as a little looney, posting content that seemed to be at odds with government policy”.

Maynier referred to a tweet in which Mboweni said 40% of mining companies should be owned by the state, that there should be a state bank, and that he called for the creation of a sovereign wealth fund. Maynier said he hoped the minister would clarify his view in the run-up to the medium-term budget policy statement.

The EFF, who had called for Nene’s head, also welcomed Ramaphosa’s decision on Nene. “Ramaphosa must apply the same consistency with other ministers who continue to serve in his cabinet, like Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane, and Bathabile Dlamini. These ministers have demonstrated the same disregard of ethical conduct shown by Nene, and, like Nene, they too have undermined parliament’s accountability mechanisms.

“Their continued stay in cabinet sends a message that Ramaphosa is inconsistent and fails to put the interest of South Africans above those of ANC’s big shots,” the EFF said.

It noted Mboweni’s appointment, and said he should prioritise the interests of the country, in particular the poor black South Africans who suffer from poverty, unemployment and hunger.

The IFP said Mboweni’s appointment came at a time “when our economy, more than ever, needs capable, able and stable leadership. We wish minister Mboweni well as he journeys through the mammoth task of steering our economy in the right direction.”