The rand is taking another beating on the back of news that South Africa’s current finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa “to relieve him of his duties”.
That was reported by News24, who said Nene’s decision was in response to public pressure over his State Capture inquiry of commission testimony last week.
During that testimony he dropped a number of bombshells, but it was his admission that he confirmed visiting the Gupta family on numerous occasions between 2009 and 2014 that has drawn the most ire.
More on Nene’s impending resignation:
A senior government official told News24 the reports were true and that the conversation took place telephonically, but refused to divulge any further information and instead directed questions to the Presidency and Nene…
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko told News24 there was no official comment on the reports yet, while calls to Nene went unanswered…
Other senior government officials who spoke to News24 on Monday said that Nene’s decision “was in keeping with his character” and that “it is probably the right thing to do”.
There are fears however that a new finance minister, three weeks before the tabling of the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement – the so-called mini-budget – could lead to more political turbulence.
In the wake of a quite ludicrous fuel price hike, linked in part to the poorly-performing rand, the last thing we need is more instability.
So, who can we expect to step up and take over the poisoned chalice that is this country’s finance minister position? According to Business Insider, there are six names that will stand out for Ramaphosa, should he accept Nene’s resignation:
He could move public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan back to his old position as finance minister, but this is unlikely: Gordhan has his hands full with parastatal chaos. Also, the public enterprises director-general Richard Seleke has just resigned.
Alternatively, former ANC’s treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, currently minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, could be moved to the finance portfolio.
Whilst those are options, neither seems likely, and it looks like a frontrunner from left field could be emerging:
…a cabinet outsider, Gauteng finance MEC Barbara Creecy, could be appointed instead, according to reports picked up on by News24.
Bloomberg also reports that Creecy is being considered by the ANC’s top six as a potential finance minister.
Creecy was elected to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature in 1994, and has served as MEC for education, as well as for sports, recreation, arts and culture, before getting the finance portfolio four years ago.
During her term, she implemented an open tender system in 2016, which has reportedly saved R1.2-billion in irregular expenditure.
An anti-apartheid activist, she attended the University of Witwatersrand, and later received a degree in public policy from the University of London. She list yoga as one of her extramural pursuits.
A yoga fan, hey?
Insert some kind of joke about the rand being in the downward dog position right now. I could probably do better, but it’s a Monday and my brain is still recovering.
A name that many South Africans will be happy to see thrown into the mix is Mcebisi Jonas, who is apparently also a frontrunner.
Jonas also met with the Gupta family at their Saxonwold house, but at least he claimed to refuse R600,000 in cash (and a further offer of R600 million) to become finance minister during that meeting. Ajay Guptas has denied this.
Jonas was axed as deputy finance minister by former President Jacob Zuma during a midnight cabinet reshuffle in 2017. These days, he serves as MTN director and as an investment envoy for Ramaphosa.
He has strong struggle credentials. He became an activist in his teenage years and then, after obtaining a higher diploma in education at Rhodes University, completed military training in Angola and Uganda for the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK). During this time, he was employed by the United Nations to run an education programme for the young soldiers.
Also listed as a possible contender is Lesetja Kganyago, the Reserve Bank governor, who joined the National Treasury in 1996:
He served as director-general until 2011, when he joined the SARB as deputy governor. He was appointed governor by Zuma almost exactly four years ago.
During his term, he refused to budge under pressure amid calls for nationalising the central bank. Kganyago also successfully challenged an attempt by the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to change the regulator’s inflation-target mandate.
His first term with the SARB governor is due to end in November, but he has stated that he is keen for a second term.
Finally, there’s Daniel Mminele:
Mminele’s name has long been bandied about as finance minister potential. He joined the Reserve Bank in 2001, and has been a member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the SARB since August 2004.
Between 1987 and 1995 he held various positions at a German state bank. Earlier the year he received the German Great Order of Merit – Germany’s highest tribute – for “furthering German-South African relations”.
Fin24 have thrown another name into the ring, which is that of Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele:
Gungubele is a former mayor of Ekurhuleni and a seasoned politician from Gauteng. Before going into local government, he was an MEC for Sports and Recreation in the province and also served as the MEC for Finance. The commerce graduate has a nursing diploma and is well-regarded by the Ramaphosa administration.
And then there were seven.
Whoever Cyril Ramaphosa appoints, they have a serious task on their hands.
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