At the time of writing, Nhlanhla Nene is still finance minister. I hope he will still be by the time you read this. Let me explain why. Nene is a loyal ANC cadre who wants to do his job properly. But that implied a tortuous dissonance. What happens when those two ambitions could not be reconciled: when doing then president Jacob Zuma’s will was fundamentally at odds with doing one’s job? In the case of Nene, we know the answer. When he was presented with a hastily drawn-up contract to tie the state to as much as a trillion rand of debt for the nuclear deal in 2015, he chose to do his job properly. He refused to sign. Of course, there are other cabinet members who went the other way in managing their own dissonant obligations. Nene was summarily dismissed for his decision, sparking an onslaught on the National Treasury that would still be on when Zuma fell. The price for doing one’s job was high. Psychologists call it hindsight bias: the phenomenon of believing now that we were able ...

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