Tito Mboweni reacts to claims Zuma’s Left Wing shafted chance as Finance Minister

By Alec Hogg

Former SA Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni reacted angrily and then with concern after seeing the Sunday Times newspaper’s front page lead article claiming he had been shafted by President Jacob Zuma’s left wing allies. Mboweni, an adept user of Twitter with more than 60 000 followers, first became aware of the article late on Saturday night when he saw a tweet from the Sunday Times.

Asked what he thought, the man who had been widely tipped to succeed Pravin Gordhan as Finance Minister reacted angrily – capital letters online are the equivalent of shouting.  

Once he had been sent the piece, however, a more reflective Mboweni tweeted:

The reaction from elsewhere is sure to be equally uncomfortable for a President who seems to be walking a tightrope between various interest groups. Mboweni is held in extremely high regard among those with the power to allocate the capital that developing economies like South Africa need if they are to grow, alleviate poverty and increase employment.

My daily newsletter, distributed early this morning and headlined Mboweni an unfortunate omission from the cabinet, reads:

Nhlanhla Nene, SA's new Finance Minister, proves that in politics, nothing is impossible. Two months back, the deputy to Pravin Gordhan looked to be headed for retirement as he was not on the ANC's official list of National Assembly candidates. Former SA Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni, 41st on that list, was widely tipped to succeed Gordhan. After all, he'd stepped down from the chairmanship of Anglogold Ashanti in mid-February.
Nene, on the other hand, had the misfortune of being remembered best as the victim of faulty SABC equipment. During a televised interview that went viral on Youtube (over 290 000 views), his chair first creaked and then totally collapsed, dropping Nene from the camera's view (see below). Not many politicians would expect to come back after being the unfortunate subject of such widespread mirth.

Yesterday's Sunday Times says Mboweni got shafted by President Jacob Zuma's leftist allies - the communists and trade unions. The newspaper quoted an unnamed Communist Party bigwig complaining of Mboweni's "neo-liberal" ideas. Those with longer memories might recall Mboweni's view of the world was adjusted after he spent time with SARB predecessor Chris Stals and, later, the likes of intellectual giants Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke during annual Central Bank Governor meetings at Jackson Hole in the US.
Mboweni opened his mind and allowed a better understanding of reality to replace poorly conceived political dogma. In much the same way as Nelson Mandela allowed the facts to adjust his views on economic policy during his visit to Davos in 1991.
The great economist John Maynard Keynes, when criticised about an altered view, responded with "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" Mboweni's experience suggests those with the ability to take Keynes's advice seem to get short shrift in SA politics. That's unfortunate. Because the starting point of building wisdom is knowing there is a great deal you don't know.