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Zuma defends decision to axe Nene

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Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. (Bloomberg)
Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. (Bloomberg)

Cape Town - Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene did not receive a good rating from the DA in their report card, President Jacob Zuma said. “In fact, they said he hadn’t performed and asked for his dismissal.”

Zuma was responding to a question in the National Assembly on why he summarily dismissed a “very capable finance minister” on December 9 2015.

Zuma reminded members of parliament that according to the constitution, he is entitled to hire and fire cabinet ministers and deputy ministers as he pleases.

“Section 91 (2) of the constitution says - and I quote - 'the president appoints the deputy president(s) and ministers, assigns their power and functions and may dismiss them'," Zuma said.

“The constitution further states that I don’t have to consult with anyone before I appoint someone,” he said, in reference to his decision to replace Nene with little-known ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen.

Three days later, Van Rooyen was redeployed to the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, while former finance minister Pravin Gordhan once again took the helm at National Treasury. He was finance minister from May 2009 until 2014, when Zuma redeployed him to the cooperative governance ministry.

Zuma defended his decision to ask Nene to vacate his position, saying: “I had always thought Nhlanhla Nene was a very capable minister and so I wanted him to occupy a position where he was globally recognised."

Since Nene’s removal, Zuma has insisted that he nominated the former finance minister to head up the newly-established Brics Bank – claims Nene has to date refuted.

Zuma also said it was untrue that the rand went into free fall after Nene’s removal from his position. “The rand was already in decline; it had nothing to do with the (former) finance minister’s removal.”

Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane loudly objected, saying Zuma’s statements were nonsensical.

Speaker Baleka Mbete asked Maimane to behave himself or leave the House, but he continued arguing and was ordered to leave the National Assembly. The entire DA caucus followed him.        

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