Tito Mboweni replaces Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister

JOHANNESBURG — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has spoken glowingly of outgoing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. Nene has been relieved of his duties, after Ramaphosa accepted his resignation. Nene may be remembered for a meeting with the Guptas but South Africans should not forget how he stood up against the Zuptoid regime, and saved this country from fiscal collapse and a Russian nuclear deal. Filling his shoes is 59 year old Tito Mboweni. Mboweni headed the South African Reserve Bank for a decade until 2009. After leaving the central bank he went into business, acting as an adviser in South Africa for Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and served as chairman of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and on the boards of other companies. He has also been an outspoken critic of State Capture. – Stuart Lowman

By Sam Mkokeli, Mike Cohen, Paul Vecchiatto and Amogelang Mbatha

(Bloomberg) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed former central bank Governor Tito Mboweni as his finance minister on Tuesday, replacing Nhlanhla Nene, who lied about his meetings with three businessmen accused of plundering state funds.

Mboweni, the nation’s fifth finance chief in less than three years, will have to oversee an economy that’s fallen into recession and help Ramaphosa rebuild confidence battered by almost nine years of mismanagement under former President Jacob Zuma. He must also reassure investors and credit-rating companies of credible plans to stabilize debt and revive growth in the mid-term budget on Oct. 24.

“In the wake of Mr. Nene’s resignation, I have decided to appoint Mr. Tito Mboweni as minister of finance with immediate effect,” Ramaphosa said. “Mr. Mboweni takes on this responsibility at a very critical time for our economy.”

Mboweni, who trained as an economist, served as head of the South African Reserve Bank for a decade until 2009 and for four years as labor minister in former President Nelson Mandela’s cabinet. His major achievement at the central bank was building the nation’s foreign-exchange reserves to almost $40 billion from less than $10 billion.

The rand gained 0.6 percent to 14.7647 per dollar by 4:51pm in Johannesburg, reversing an earlier decline of as much as 1.4 percent. Yields on benchmark 2026 government bonds fell six basis points to 9.22 percent.

Mboweni’s career

After leaving the Reserve Bank, Mboweni went into business, acting as an adviser in South Africa for Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and served as chairman of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and on the boards of other companies.

Mboweni is a member of the African National Congress’s National Executive Committee, one of the ruling party’s highest decision-making bodies. He featured on a list of candidates for the panel that backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the position of party leader in December – a post won by Ramaphosa.

Nene’s fall from grace came after he admitted to an anti-graft inquiry that he met members of the Gupta family at their home six times, contradicting statement in an earlier interview that he only interacted with them at public events.

The three Gupta brothers, who are friends of Zuma and in business with his son, were implicated by the nation’s former anti-graft ombudsman in influencing government appointments and the award of state contracts – allegations they and Zuma deny.

Nuclear plans

This was Nene’s second stint as finance minister. Nene said he had refused to agree to Zuma’s plans to the build nuclear plants, and he was fired in December 2015.

The ANC forced Zuma to quit as president in February, clearing the way for his 65-year-old deputy and party leader Ramaphosa to take over. Ramaphosa has said combating graft is one of his top priorities, and he’s replaced a number of other officials implicated in wrongdoing.

Uncertainty over Nene’s future had weighed on the rand. The currency has fallen 5 percent against the dollar this month, leading emerging-market declines.

Former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas declined an offer by Ramaphosa on Monday to take over as finance minister, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorised to comment.

Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on position of Finance Minister

Fellow South Africans,

Over the course of the last few days there has been much discussion among South Africans on matters that arose in the course of the testimony of Minister Nhlanhla Nene at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

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.

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 re-establish public trust in government.

After due consideration of the circumstances surrounding this matter, and in the interests of good governance, I have decided to accept his resignation.

During his tenure as Minister of Finance, Mr Nene served the people and government of South Africa with diligence and ability.

Under difficult circumstances and often under great pressure, he consistently defended the cause of proper financial management and clean governance.

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.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank him for his service to the nation.

In the wake of Mr Nene’s resignation, I have decided to appoint Mr Tito Mboweni as Minister of Finance with immediate effect.

As former governor of the South African Reserve Bank and, before that, as Minister of Labour, Mr Mboweni brings to this position vast experience in the areas of finance, economic policy and governance.

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.

Allow me to conclude with a few remarks about the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

It is critical that the Commission has the means and opportunity to effectively fulfil 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.

For the country to move forward, we need to establish the full extent of state capture, identify those responsible for facilitating it, and take decisive steps to prevent it happening again.

Throughout this process, we need to be guided by the values and principles of our Constitution, mindful of the importance of due process, committed to good governance, and determined that, with the support of all South Africans, the Commission of Inquiry will succeed in fulfilling its critical mandate.

Once more, I wish to thank Mr Nene for his tireless service to the country, and wish Mr Mboweni well in his new role.

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