The threat by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to disrupt President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address (Sona) in protest over the firing of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister appears to have inadvertently put Nene in a difficult position.
The EFF has vowed to interrupt Zuma’s Sona should he not explain why he removed Nene in December last year.
Now Zuma’s allies have expressed a concern that Nene has not done enough to distance himself from those mobilising around him.
Those who spoke to City Press said that if Nene were uncomfortable with people using his name to attack the ANC and the president, the former minister would have spoken out by now. The fact that he had not done so “insinuated” that he either endorsed the attacks or was enjoying them.
“It is up to him to distance himself from the campaign. Otherwise, it becomes his campaign. If it were anyone else, they would have jumped up and said: ‘I am a disciplined member of the ANC waiting for deployment and I am not party to any campaign against the president.’ But he is quiet,” said a senior government official.
Nene refused to comment when called by City Press.
“I hope you will respect that. It’s actually just been crazy because I am getting calls on something that ... I don’t understand why it is all of a sudden an issue.
“The reason I am not taking any calls is because it starts off as another issue and ends up being this issue, so I have taken a decision: no interviews,” he said.
Nene was controversially sacked by Zuma in December and replaced by little-known backbencher Des van Rooyen.
This was criticised by many, including those in the ANC’s tripartite alliance. It led to citizens staging protest marches in several big cities. The markets also reacted adversely to the development, which led to the rand plummeting.
At the time of Nene’s dismissal, Zuma said that he had decided to remove “Mr Nhlanhla Nene as minister of finance ahead of his deployment to another strategic position”, which he later said was to head the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank, which will be based in Johannesburg.
“Mr Nene is our candidate for this position,” he said.
But this week, the Financial Mail quoted Nene as saying he had not received a formal offer to join the bank. Nene has also resigned as a member of Parliament.