“Get ready for your first cabinet meeting tomorrow.”
This is how President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed his new finance minister to the crucial position on Tuesday‚ moments after Tito Mboweni‚ a former South African Reserve Bank governor‚ took his oath of office.
Mboweni became the sixth finance minister in the last five years after Nhlhanhla Nene resigned from the position on Tuesday morning following controversy over his apology for multiple meetings with the Gupta family at their private home in Saxonwold‚ Johannesburg.
Nene made the apology after detailing his meetings with the Guptas at the state capture commission of inquiry last week – until then‚ the meetings had remained secret.
He also came under pressure to step down after it emerged that his son may have derived financial benefit from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) at a time when he was the organisation’s chair.
The Public Protector is now investigating him for possible breach of the Executives Ethics Act following a complaint from the DA.
Mboweni has previously served as minister of labour‚ under late president Nelson Mandela between 1994 and 1999‚ before spending ten years as the governor of the Reserve Bank between 1999 and 2009.
Mboweni’s immediate big task is the delivery of the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement‚ which takes place in two weeks amid a gloomy economic outlook.
He has also served as international adviser of Goldman Sachs International and on the board of Anglo Gold Ashanti‚ among other positions in the private sector.
Ramaphosa said Nene wrote to him on Tuesday requesting to step down‚ and he decided to accede to the request.
“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 evidence presented by Minister Nene at the commission‚ 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‚” said Ramaphosa.
Turning to Mboweni‚ Ramaphosa said he was coming in at a time when “strong and capable” leadership was required to transform and rescue the ailing economy.
“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‚” he said. Ramaphosa also lamented that nobody was above the scrutiny of the state capture commission of inquiry.
“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.”
The president appoints ministers from among members of the National Assembly in terms of Section 91 of the Constitution‚ but it also allows him to appoint no more than two ministers from outside parliament.
Mboweni‚ like mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe‚ has been appointed under this arrangement because he is not an MP.