Tito Mboweni gets sworn in as the country's new finance minister on October 9 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Tito Mboweni gets sworn in as the country's new finance minister on October 9 2018. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Former reserve bank governor Tito Mboweni has been appointed finance minister after President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted  Nhlanhla Nene’s letter of resignation.

On Monday, Business Day reported that Nene had asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties following public pressure over his testimony at the state capture inquiry, at which he admitted to meeting the Gupta family on numerous occasions, and at their private Saxonwold home.

The request came after some political parties rejected his apology for the previously undisclosed meetings with the family when he served as deputy minister and minister of finance, respectively.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon at Tuynhuys, Ramaphosa said Mboweni would provide the strong leadership needed at this time.

"As former governor of the reserve bank, Mr Mboweni brings to this position vast experience in areas of finance, economic policy as well as in governance," he said.

"Mr Mboweni takes on this responsibility at a critical time for our economy, as we intensify co-operation among all social partners to increase investment, accelerate growth and create jobs on a substantial scale.”

“This moment calls for strong, capable and steady leadership that will unlock new opportunities as we grow and transform our economy,” Ramaphosa said.

Mboweni was sworn in immediately.

Born in 1959, Mboweni was a leader of the exiled ANC. He was appointed labour minister in 1994 and oversaw sweeping reforms to the labour market. He became the first black governor of the SA Reserve Bank in August 1999 and served for just more than 10 years until November 2009.

Mboweni has since served as an adviser to investment banking firm Goldman Sachs and has been a director at the New Development Bank established by Brics. He is a founding member of Mboweni Brothers Investment Holdings

‘No-one is above scrutiny’

Commenting on the state capture inquiry, Ramaphosa said it was critical that the commission had the means and opportunity to effectively fulfil its mandate.

He said no person should be above scrutiny and all relevant and credible accusations of wrongdoing should be thoroughly investigated.

"It is incumbent upon any person who may have knowledge of any of the matters within the commission’s mandate to provide that information to the commission, to do so honestly and to do so fully. For the country to move forward, we need to establish the full extent of state capture, identify those responsible for facilitating it, and take decisive steps to prevent it happening again," Ramaphosa said.

Concern about uncertainty

Earlier on Tuesday, presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said Ramaphosa had been engaging with Nene following his testimony at the state capture inquiry. Diko said Ramaphosa was concerned about the uncertainty the matter had created in financial markets, and reaffirmed his commitment to the project of economic stability and economic recovery.

Nene’s departure from the finance portfolio comes as Treasury officials prepare to attend the International Monetary Fund's (IMF’s) annual meeting in Bali and credit ratings agency Moody’s is expected to do its next review of the country on Friday.

Nene served as deputy finance minister and finance minister under former president Jacob Zuma. In December 2015, Zuma fired Nene and replaced him with little known ANC MP Des van Rooyen. Four days later after pressure, Zuma had to backtrack on his decision and appoint Pravin Gordhan as minister.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called a late afternoon media conference in Cape Town on October 9 2018 to notify the nation of his decision to let finance minister ...

Gordhan himself was removed as finance minister in March 2017 and replaced by Malusi Gigaba. Nene returned to the position of finance minister in February after Zuma resigned and Ramaphosa was appointed president.

Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Nhlanhla Nene. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

Nene was widely criticised for revealing to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture that he had met the Guptas at their Saxonwold, Johannesburg home on several occasions. He had previously said he had only encountered them at social events.

On Friday the Mail & Guardian reported that Nene’s son, Siyabonga Nene, had asked the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to fund part of a deal to fund a refinery in Mozambique. This occurred while Nene was deputy finance minister and the government’s leading representative on the PIC board.

Nene issued a public letter of apology to the nation on Friday, saying he had been wrong to meet the Guptas at their residence.

“I say this being mindful of the fact that it is quite common practice, not only in SA but globally, for public office-bearers to attend gatherings, including dinners, at residences of business people, fellow politicians and other stakeholders.”

But, he added, “context matters”.

Nene disclosed to the Zondo commission that he had been fired after rebuffing an instruction from Zuma to sign off on a nuclear deal with Russia, among other deals that he believed were unaffordable.