Experienced, well known, but also a ‘bit loony’: Mixed reactions to Mboweni

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is sworn in, in Cape Town on Tuesday (October 9 2018). Picture: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is sworn in, in Cape Town on Tuesday (October 9 2018). Picture: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation puts South Africa’s tally of ministers of finance at five over the past five years, and the country’s latest candidate for the job, Tito Mboweni, has been met with mixed reactions.

Cas Coovadia, managing director of the Banking Association South Africa welcomed Mboweni’s appointment, saying that the association worked closely with him during his tenure as governor of the South African Reserve Bank.

“We are confident that he has the skills and experience to manage the fiscus and help the economy to recover, in these challenging times.

"He will have to win and maintain the confidence of the financial markets as well as the business and investor communities, while facilitating inclusive economic growth, job creation and social development,” Coovadia said.

As a former labour minister, he will understand that addressing the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, are as important as maintaining fiscal discipline and the stability of the financial system
Cas Coovadia

"Minister Mboweni will have to focus on working with his colleagues to ensure a stable and coherent regulatory and policy environment, to give business confidence to invest in the real economy.”

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

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the appointment came at a time when the economy needed capable, able and stable leadership.

“We note that this is the fifth minister in three years and is indicative of an ANC floundering in terms of providing stable governance and leadership,” Hlengwa said.

SA’s finance ministers over the past few years

Nhlanhla Nene: May 25 2014 – December 9 2015

David van Rooyen: December 9 2015 – December 13 2015

Pravin Gordhan: December 13 2015 – March 31 2017

Malusi Gigaba: March 31 2017 – February 27 2018

Nhlanhla Nene: February 27 2018 – October 9 2018

Tito Mboweni: October 9 2018

He added that the party hoped that the announcement wouldn’t affect the country’s credit rating pronouncement later this week.

Both the IFP and the Banking Association commended Nene on doing the honourable thing by resigning.

“As the State Capture Inquiry continues, we certainly hope that more ministers within the president’s Cabinet will submit themselves before the inquiry if they have met with Gupta family and how their meetings may have had an effect on government policy, plans or spending,” said Hlengwa.

These sentiments were echoed by the Economic Freedom Fighters who called on Ramaphosa to “apply the same consistency” and fire other ministers who had been associated with the Guptas.

The party said Nene’s resignation was welcomed. It said Nene’s conduct in meetings with members of the Gupta family had been “unethical conduct of lying and misleading the public about his relations with the Gupta criminal syndicate.”

Read: Mboweni to steady ‘good governance’ ship after Nene’s resignation

But the Congress of the People’s Mosiuoa Lekota wasn’t impressed with the appointment.

With a population of 54 million people, South Africa has more men and women who can manage the economy of this country. There’s no need to recycle old wood as if we are running short of population.
Mosiuoa Lekota

“But President Ramaphosa is clearly weak and not capable of cleansing the executive of this country with politically clean and economically capable men and women of this nation,” said a scathing statement by the 70-year-old Lekota, a former national chairperson of the ANC and minister of defence.

“As a nation we face an unprecedented crisis – constitutionally, economically, socially and governmentally – all of which is rooted in a political crisis of corrupted leadership, bad governance and poor policy choices.”

He compared the removal of former president Jacob Zuma to “a receding tsunami” that had laid bare “the true extent of the damage done to our current and future prospects”.

Like Hlengwa, he referred to other “compromised and clearly corrupted ministers” who were still in power and said that the party had no confidence in the composition of Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

Lekota said he would approach other opposition parties with a view to initiating a motion of no confidence in the Cabinet.

The Democratic Alliance’s David Maynier had asked the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to investigate Nene, and received confirmation on Monday that her office would investigate the allegations.

Although the party acknowledged Mboweni’s experience, and the advantage that he was known to market participants, ratings agencies and international financial institutions, who closely follow events in South Africa. Maynier said he had been “plucked from political obscurity” and had often come across on social media “as a little loony posting content that seemed to be at odds with government policy”.

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