The appointment of former governor of the Reserve Bank Tito Mboweni as the new minister of finance has received near-universal welcome, with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) calling on him to prioritise the interests of the people.
The party also demanded that President Cyril Ramaphosa fire other state capture-implicated ministers, such as Nomvula Mokonyane, Malusi Gigaba and Bathabile Dlamini.
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said Mboweni was the right choice, considering he was not a controversial figure and had experience in finance after serving as the Reserve Bank governor for about a decade.
“His understanding of governance, finances and economy is quite solid. I think the fact that he has a track record that is verifiable and a sound temperament and people skills won’t disturb the markets and investors. On top of that, the ANC as the ruling party would be happy with him,” Fikeni said.
Ramaphosa said he accepted Nene’s resignation letter, which he received yesterday morning.
“He has indicated that there is risk that the developments around his testimony [to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture] 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 evidence presented by Minister Nene at the commission, and in the interests of good governance, I have decided to accept his resignation,” Ramaphosa said.
The president praised Nene for having “consistently defended the cause of proper financial management and clean governance” under great pressure.
Fikeni said Nene’s removal was inevitable due to the pressure he was under.
“Ramaphosa had no choice but to bring some stability and certainty to the portfolio, especially after Nene himself had requested to be relieved of his duties. The president took longer to act because he wanted someone who would be acceptable to the markets and the ANC,” Fikeni said.
Mboweni, who was sworn in at the Union Buildings yesterday, hit the ground running as he was expected to travel to Bali, Indonesia, to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group that started yesterday and runs to October 14.
Mboweni’s first task at the IMF-World Bank gathering is seen as significant for a country that is on a mission to attract foreign direct investments.
Nene got discredited after he admitted to the Zondo commission last week that he attended meetings with the Guptas. He had failed to disclose that until his shocking confession.
Although the former minister apologised publicly for the mistake, he came under pressure to step down from the opposition and some ANC alliance partners.
Economic Freedom Fighters national spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi yesterday said Mboweni must give priority to the interests of all the people, particularly the poor.
“Highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct must inform anyone who wants to lead South Africa, particularly presiding over the finances of the republic,” he said.
Ndlozi said Ramaphosa must apply the same consistency with Cabinet ministers like Gigaba, Mokonyane and Dlamini.
“Their continued stay in Cabinet sends a message that Ramaphosa is inconsistent and fails to put the interest of South Africans above those of the ANC’s big shots,” Ndlozi said.
Cosatu welcomed Mboweni’s appointment and commended Ramaphosa for being decisive.
DA worried about Tito’s radical economic transformation views
The Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow finance minister, David Maynier, says his party welcomed the appointment of the new Finance Minister Tito Mboweni but was worried about his radical thoughts on economic transformation and the nationalisation of banks.
However, the DA was confident that, with Mboweni’s experience, he would be able to hit the ground running.
Despite having been plucked from political obscurity and appointed as the new finance minister, he would be able to do the job and was “at least known to market participants, ratings agencies and international financial institutions, who closely follow events in South Africa”.
“However, we are concerned that during the years that he was out in the political cold, he often came over on social media, at least, as a little loony, posting content that seemed to be at odds with government policy like this,” Maynier said.
The DA MP also posted a tweet Mboweni published recently in which he called for the state to do four things, including owning 40% of the mining companies, starting a state bank, implementing appropriation land use planning and creating a sovereign wealth fund.
“What is difficult? That is radical economic transformation,” Mboweni said.