South African finance minister quits cabinet over Gupta links

Lesetja Kganyago

Mboweni, the nation's fifth finance chief in less than three years, will have to oversee an economy that's fallen into recession and help Ramaphosa rebuild confidence battered by nearly nine years of mismanagement under former President Jacob Zuma.

"He was lucky because Nene is the kind of person who would admit when he has made a mistake without being pushed". "He will strengthen Ramaphosa's hand in cabinet".

Former central bank governor Tito Mboweni was named as Nene's successor - the fifth finance minister in less than three years.

The rand gained 0.9 percent to 14.71 per dollar by 5:25 pm in Johannesburg, reversing an earlier decline of as much as 1.4 percent on the news.

Nene faced calls to resign after he admitted visiting the Gupta brothers, friends of scandal-plagued former President Jacob Zuma, who have been accused of high-level influence-peddling, and failing to disclose the meetings earlier.

Mboweni was born on March 16, 1959, and he was the eighth governor of the South African Reserve Bank and the first black South African to hold the post.

On Monday‚ Business Day reported that Nene had asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties following public pressure over his testimony at the state capture inquiry‚ at which he admitted to meeting the Gupta family on numerous occasions and at their private Saxonwold home.

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He says Nene's decision to step down in the wake of what he called "errors of judgement" was a mark of his character and commitment to the country's interests.

"Public servants at all spheres and levels of government will have no obligation to responsibly manage state fiscal resources under a compromised minister of finance, " Malema said.

Nene was initially hailed as a hero when he told the inquiry that Zuma had fired him in 2015 for "refusing to toe the line" on projects that would have benefited the wealthy Gupta family and others close to the then-president.

The ANC forced Zuma to quit as president in February, clearing the way for his 65-year-old deputy and party leader Ramaphosa to take over.

Several ministers and government officials have been implicated in the widening graft scandals around the Guptas.

"This principled steadfastness, and his voluntary appearance at the commission of inquiry into state capture as the first sitting Cabinet minister, deserve recognition", SACP spokesperson Alex Mohubetswane said in a statement. "This averts a potential crisis in the political leadership of the national treasury".

The crisis over the finance minister had thrown a spotlight on Ramaphosa's promise to crack down on corruption and boost economic growth.

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