Tito Mboweni: Ramaphosa’s safe bet after Nene comes clean on Guptas?

President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulates new finance minister Tito Mboweni. Picture: Adrian de Kock
President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulates new finance minister Tito Mboweni. Picture: Adrian de Kock

President Cyril Ramaphosa has opted for a safe bet in former reserve bank governor Tito Mboweni who he has announced as the man to take over from now former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.

Nene fell on his sword when he came clean to the Zondo Commission last week, revealing that he had on numerous occasions met with the Guptas at their Saxonwold home.

This was in contradiction to an interview he did after former president Jacob Zuma gave him the axe in 2015, from the same position, where Nene said that he had only come across the Guptas informally.

“As a consequence of these developments, Minister Nene submitted a letter of resignation this morning in which he requested that I relieve him of the position of the minister of finance,” Ramaphosa said during his address to the nation.

“He has indicated that there is risk that the developments around his testimony will detract from the important task of serving the people of South Africa, particularly as we work to reestablish public trust in government.”

Ramaphosa was full of praise for the former minister, saying that he did great work under extreme pressure.

“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.”

The president’s announcement came just two weeks before the finance minister was set to deliver the medium-term budget policy statement.

“Mr Mboweni takes on this responsibility at a critical moment for our economy, as we intensify cooperation 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. I am confident that Mr Mboweni will provide that leadership,” Ramaphosa said.

The Economic Freedom Front members were among the first to call for Nene’s head, threatening that there was more dirt on him which had not yet been revealed.

In the days leading up to Nene’s resignation, concerns were raised about whether or not Nene’s rumoured removal would spook other officials who had information to bring to the Zondo Commission, fearing for their jobs.

In a statement last week Friday Nene begged for the forgiveness of South Africans.

“Part of my duty as a public office bearer is to meet fellow South Africans and other stakeholders when they request to do so.

"However, I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place,” Nene said.

“In return for the trust and faith that you have placed on me, I owe you conduct as a public office bearer that is beyond reproach. But I am human too, I do make mistakes, including those of poor judgment. However, it is reasonable of the public to expect public office bearers to own up fully and timeously to the mistakes they make in the course of carrying out their public duties."

Nene enjoyed support from some people, who argued that he be forgiven for coming clean and added that Ramaphosa had retained a number of so-called rotten apples from former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet when he announced a cabinet reshuffle earlier this year following his appointment as president of the country.

Courts found that both ministers Malusi Gigaba and Bathabile Dlamini were found to have been economical with the truth.

Ramaphosa ended his announcement by warning that no one would be treated with kid gloves by the commission.

“It is critical that the commission has the means and opportunity to effectively fulfill its mandate.

In this process, 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.”

At least one more change to Ramaphosa’s executive is pending following the untimely death of minister of environmental affairs Edna Molewa.

Ramaphosa has remained mum on possible replacements for Molewa, leaving the door open for another change in his Cabinet.

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