Among the startling revelations made before the Zondo commission of inquiry, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene met the Gupta family at their residence at least on 11 occasions between 2009 and 2014, when he was deputy minister of finance.
It is also not clear what happened at these meetings and any consequent decisions taken by Nene. But he was penitent and apologetic and asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties.
This is a singular and exemplary manifestation of political accountability at the highest level. Far too frequently — as in the SA Social Security Agency debacle and the Life Esidimeni tragedy — politicians and senior public servants have shamefully denied their accountability in circumstances where their ethical conduct was highly questionable.
Ramaphosa rose to the occasion and accepted Nene’s resignation, acting in the best interests of SA. But Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Bathabile Dlamini and Minister of Communications Nomvula Mokonyane are also implicated in the Gupta debacle or other unethical conduct, creating a quandary for Ramaphosa.
The president is constrained to take realpolitik into account, involving his problematic position in the ANC with its two factions, one of which is still apparently unfavourably disposed to him. Only after the 2019 elections should he obtain an unequivocal mandate from the electorate (which is not certain) will he be more able to make a clean sweep.
Ramaphosa's appointment of former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni as the new minister of finance augers well for the future.