Cape Town – Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has spoken out about his decision to block the SAA deal with Airbus, a ruling that has been widely thought to be behind his shock axing.
Nene told the Sunday Times newspaper that he felt he acted in the country’s best interests when he rejected the airline’s plan and that he was trying to “protect the fiscus”.
On December 3, Treasury announced that Nene, in his capacity as finance minister, had not approved the proposed amendment to SAA's Airbus A320/A330 swap transaction structure, Fin24 reported.
In the December 3 announcement, Treasury stated that SAA had not demonstrated that there was certainty that the proposed amendment to its Airbus A320/A330 swap transaction structure would leave the airline in a better financial position than it would otherwise have been had the airline implemented the original swap transaction structure.
A week later, President Jacob Zuma made the shocking announcement that he had removed Nene from his finance ministry post, sending the rand into freefall and leaving economists shaking their heads.
But Nene told the Sunday Times that he has no regrets about how he handled the SAA saga and he believes he’s “got a clean record”.
Many have speculated that Nene’s firm stance on SAA and the proposed nuclear deal are what led Zuma to kick him out of his post.
On Saturday the Presidency also issued a statement denying that there was a relationship between Zuma and SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni and that the two have a “love child”.
Myeni is said to be quite close with the presidency and heads up the Jacob G Zuma Foundation.
But Zuma claims the reason for Nene’s axing was actually so he could be nominated for a top position at the new Brics development bank, News24 reported.
The president said the "urgency of the changes in the leadership of the National Treasury" was because nominations needed to be sent to Shanghai in terms of the head of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank/BRICS Bank, which will be based in Johannesburg".
But Zuma’s decision was so closely guarded that not even his Cabinet was informed, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told the media on Friday.
Meanwhile, in saying goodbye to his team at the Treasury Department, Nene was said to be close to tears and reportedly told his now ex-employees to “hold the fort”.
The Sunday Times also reported that an SAA insider had revealed that the company’s board had decided that it would petition new Finance Minister David van Rooyen to reverse Nene’s decision on the Airbus deal.