In or out? Mboweni looks set to retain key post, say sources

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his maiden Budget to Parliament in Cape Town on February 20, 2019 (GCIS)
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers his maiden Budget to Parliament in Cape Town on February 20, 2019 (GCIS)

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is likely to hold on to his job for at least another year, as President Cyril Ramaphosa moves to re-assure investors and ratings companies that the economy is in good hands, according to two people familiar with the cabinet selection process.

The former central bank governor, who was appointed to his post seven months ago, is best positioned to ensure the country continues to deal with its debt burden and maintains market stability, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they aren’t authorised to comment. The need to retain stability in the finance ministry was underscored in late 2017 when then-President Jacob Zuma roiled financial markets by appointing three different ministers in the space of five days.

Ramaphosa took office 15 months ago after the ANC forced Zuma to step down after a scandal-marred rule that lasted almost nine years. He secured a five-year term when the ANC won May 8 elections, is due to be inaugurated on May 25 and name his cabinet a day or two later.

While the president has the prerogative to appoint whoever he chooses, the tradition has been for him to consult with other ANC leaders and the party’s labour and communist allies. Leaders of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the largest labour group, have said they want the 60-year-old Mboweni to retire.

“I don’t know if I will be finance minister,” Mboweni said in an interview in Cape Town on Monday. “It is up to the president to decide.”

Mboweni has spoken out on the need for the government to spend within its means and backed the sale of some state companies, and his reappointment would probably shore up Ramaphosa’s efforts to revive the sagging economy, curtail spending and the theft of state funds, and attract $100 billion in new investment.

Negotiations are still ongoing and its not impossible that Ramaphosa could still appoint a different finance minister, the people said.

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