Tito Mboweni back
“Get ready for your first cabinet meeting tomorrow.”
This is how President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed his new finance minister to the crucial position on Tuesday‚ moments after Tito Mboweni‚ a former SA Reserve Bank governor‚ took his oath of office.
Mboweni became the sixth finance minister in the last five years after Nhlanhla Nene resigned on Tuesday morning following controversy over his apology for multiple meetings with the Gupta family at their private home in Saxonwold‚ Johannesburg.
Nene made the apology after detailing his meetings with the Guptas at the state capture commission of inquiry last week – until then‚ the meetings had remained secret.
He also came under pressure to step down after it emerged that his son may have derived financial benefit from the Public Investment Corporation at a time when he was the organisation’s chair.
The public protector is now investigating him for possible breach of the Executives Ethics Act following a complaint from the DA.
Mboweni previously served as minister of labour between 1994 and 1999 under late president Nelson Mandela, before spending 10 years as the governor of the Reserve Bank, between 1999 and 2009.
Mboweni’s immediate big task is the delivery of the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement‚ which takes place in two weeks amid a gloomy economic outlook.
He has also served as international adviser of Goldman Sachs International and on the board of Anglo Gold Ashanti‚ among other positions in the private sector.
The DA welcomed Mboweni’s appointment.
“[He] 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,” the party said.
The EFF implored Mboweni to prioritise the interests of poor black South Africans suffering as a result of high unemployment rates.
The ANC said the decision was bold and timely.
Ramaphosa said Nene wrote to him on Tuesday requesting to step down‚ and he had decided to accede to the request.
“He has indicated that there is risk that the developments around his testimony will detract from the important task of serving the people of SA, particularly as we work to reestablish public trust in government,” he said.
“After due consideration of the evidence presented by minister Nene at the commission‚ and in the interests of good governance‚ I have decided to accept his resignation.
“During his tenure as minister of finance‚ Mr Nene served the people and government of SA with diligence and ability.
“Under difficult circumstances and often under great pressure‚ he consistently defended the cause of proper financial management and clean governance.
“It is a measure of his character and his commitment to the national interest that he has taken this decision to resign in the wake of errors of judgment‚ even though he has not been implicated in acts of wrongdoing.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank him for his service to the nation.”
Turning to Mboweni‚ Ramaphosa said he was coming in at a time when strong leadership was required.
“This moment calls for strong‚ capable and steady leadership that will unlock new opportunities as we grow and transform our economy.
“I am confident that Mr Mboweni will provide that leadership‚” he said.
Ramaphosa also said nobody was above the scrutiny of the state capture commission.
“In this process‚ no person should be above scrutiny‚ and all relevant and credible accusations of wrongdoing should be thoroughly investigated.
“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,” he said.
Mboweni, like mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe, has been appointed in terms of rules which permit two ministers from outside parliament.
“Ramaphosa is cleaning things up and laying a platform so that he is able to campaign confidently when it is election time,” University of Johannesburg politics professor Kwandiwe Kondlo said.
“He was lucky because Nene is the kind of person who would admit when he has made a mistake without being pushed.”
Kondlo said Mboweni was likely to take a hard line against public sector wage increases and could provoke friction with the country’s influential trade unions.- TimesLIVE, with additional reporting by Reuters