What South Africa desperately needed yesterday – as President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped up to address the media about the position of finance minister – was a shot of hope.
Ramaphosa’s much-vaunted “new dawn” was starting to look like nothing more than an illusion. The economy was in a downward spiral which threatened to become a tailspin.
Then, the man many people had hoped would haul SA out of the financial pit of state capture, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, was caught out – like so many other ANC politicians in the past – lying about critical issues. In evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Nene revealed he had met the Gupta family on repeated occasions – a stark contrast to his on-the-record denials to journalists a few years previously. Not only that, there were questions about some of the decisions taken during his time as head of the Public Investment Corporation.
The markets had shown their view of SA and the exchanges and currency took a beating as confidence, both local and international, plunged.
So, in appointing Tito Mboweni – one of the most successful public servants in government since 1994 (as labour minister and later as governor of the Reserve Bank) – Ramaphosa pulled a business-friendly rabbit out of the hat.
Mboweni has long been the darling of the financial community globally and his mere appointment should give a shot in the arm to the markets. Likewise, the resignation of Nene also proves that some in the ANC are capable of doing the right thing. Ramaphosa’s pledge that state capture will never be allowed to happen again will also have resonated with investors.
That Mboweni now controls the purse strings could be the early Christmas present SA sorely needs.