As the storm over Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene’s expected step-down from office gathers momentum – with the rand sliding to R15 to the US dollar – a Johannesburg academic has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to “reshuffle or downsize Cabinet as a matter of urgency”.
Nene’s future hangs in the balance following a startling disclosure last week to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that he had made several visits to the infamous Gupta family, when he was deputy and minister of finance, supposedly “without inducement to deliver on any deal”.
Mounting pressure from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) led to Nene making a public apology to the nation for “exercising poor judgment” in meeting the Guptas, amid reports that he has now asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties.
Commenting on the Nene saga and its implications, Professor Ivor Sarakinsky, who is academic director of Wits School of Governance, yesterday called on Ramaphosa to “reshuffle or downsize Cabinet as a matter of urgency” to reassure markets about economic and political stability in the country.
Regarding who should succeed Nene, Sarakinsky said: “A lot of names with market credibility have been mentioned.
“If any one of them were to get it, there would be no impact on the exchange rate. There would be confidence at the financial level.”
Among those cited as possible successors to Nene are former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and Gauteng finance MEC Barbara Creecy.
“The country needs a new person, a clean break with the past to inspire market confidence,” added Sarakinsky.
Of Nene, who was credited for standing up to former president Jacob Zuma in refusing to sign the nuclear deal worth trillions of rands with Russia in 2015, which could have plunged SA into an economic catastrophe, Sarakinsky said: “Whatever indiscretions Nene engaged in are negligible compared to the indiscretions by some Cabinet ministers.
“Other Cabinet ministers should tender their resignations because there are far too many that engaged in this kind of activity.
“Some are waiting for the storm to blow over.”
Led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the commission has seen high-profile ANC leaders implicated in supporting Gupta projects. They include party chairperson Gwede Mantashe, deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, economics head Enoch Godongwana, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
During testimony to the commission recently, Mantashe, Duarte, Godongwana and Zwane were exposed for having put pressure on South Africa’s biggest banks to reopen Gupta business accounts.
Nkoana-Mashabane’s name came up during Nene’s testimony last week as one of the Zuma-era ministers who was angered by the finance minister’s refusal to sign the nuclear deal.
Sarakinsky said the revelations that have emerged at the inquiry pointed to the ANC being “the party that enabled state capture activities”.
Asked why Nene reportedly asked the president to relieve him of his duties instead of resigning himself, Sarakinsky said: “Nene might be trying to say that he has acted with integrity and may have slipped up in the process.
“He, therefore, wants someone else, like the president, to make the decision.”