On the list of things you should know about Tito Mboweni, the former SA Reserve Bank governor who was appointed our new finance minister yesterday, pilchards and fly-fishing might not be the most important.
But hey, since South African politics has long since turned into a circus, why not?
Whilst the likes of Malusi ‘it wasn’t me’ Gigaba, and the absolute moral vacuum that is Bathabile Dlamini, manage to cling onto their jobs, Nhlanhla Nene offered up his resignation after he admitted that he had been untruthful about his dealings with the Guptas.
This left Cyril Ramaphosa with a tricky decision to make, with experts agreeing that his appointment of Mboweni was a pretty safe call.
Tito becomes the country’s fifth finance minister in less than three years (here’s looking at you, Des ‘weekend special’ van Rooyen), so let’s learn some important, and some less-than-important, details about the man in charge of turning around South Africa’s economy.
This via Business Insider:
Mboweni was born the youngest of three children on 16 March 1959 in the “beautiful and dusty village” of Bordeaux near Tzaneen. He attended the University of the North between 1979 and 1980, where he registered for a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
But, before completing his degree, he left South Africa to go into exile in 1980. While in exile, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science from the National University of Lesotho and in 1988 he obtained a Master of Arts degree in Development Economics from the University of East Anglia in England.
“I suppose you can call me an exile kid, and international kid born in South Africa but my home is in South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, the United Kingdom, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Swaziland, the USA, Switzerland and everywhere I stayed in my youth. I hate narrow nationalism, cannot stand it. I hate xenophobia,” he said in a speech.
Mboweni being dubbed the safe choice has much to do with his prior experience. He served under Nelson Mandela as labour minister, and replaced Chris Stals as SARB governor in 1998 when he was just 39:
Mboweni earned global respect during his ten years as head of the central bank.
Mboweni was named central bank governor of the year by European financial magazine Euro Money in 2001. The publication credited Mboweni for defending the value of the rand, and bringing inflation down from 9% to 6.1%.
Past experience is certainly a plus, but it does make this tweet from earlier in the year seem a little silly:
Mboweni was essentially forced out of his role by Jacob Zuma, once he took over power, with the latter lying (gasp) and telling the public that he had been “let go to pursue other opportunities”.
Onto something more light-hearted, and the bit about fly-fishing. This from a Mail & Guardian piece from back in 2002:
Speaking at the launch of the fourth edition of the Nedbank Guide to Fly-fishing in Southern Africa, Mboweni said: “Whenever I tell people about my fly-fishing hobby, the natural reaction is: “Oh goodness me, there goes another ‘darkie’ into the white person’s world. This should not be the case. This is a sport for all.”
Sure, but accommodation in Dullstroom doesn’t come cheap.
How about the fact that Cassper Nyovest actually wrote a song called ‘Tito Mboweni’ last year?
Sorry to do this, but here goes:
This is the kind of song that makes me flip on the radio, accidentally land on 5FM, and vow to write off South African radio for another year. This guy fills the FNB Stadium? Heavens above.
Anyway, the connection is that Tito was the first black man to have his signature on SA’s bank notes. The song warranted a humourous response:
If you’ve seen the Nando’s advert doing the rounds, that’s where the sha-sha comes in:
What else? Oh yeah, hot curries:
Damn, he got the sweats.
Much of what the public knows about Tito comes via his Twitter account, as News24 points out:
He is a fan of budget-friendly canned pilchards and in March tweeted: “The deed is done! Cleaned out. Nice. And by the way, the Lucky Star is VAT zero-rated. Thank you National Treasury for thinking about us pensioners.”
His worn, aged wallet has also seen better days and, after comments from his followers to buy a new one, he retired it in September.
He also got tongues wagging when, in April this year, he posted a series of tweets that many said resembled the policy of the EFF.
As is to be expected, the DA greeted his appointment by raising concerns about that tweet. IOL reports:
[They] expressed concern over “a little looney posting content that seemed to be at odds with government policy”.
“With his experience, the new Finance Minister will have the advantage of being able to hit the ground running and is, 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 looney posting content that seemed to be at odds with government policy,” said DA Shadow Minister of Finance, David Maynier.
To finish, here’s some expert analysis on what lies ahead via the Mail & Guardian once more:
“This is a very good appointment for a number of reasons,” said professor Jannie Rossouw, the head of the school of economic and business sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Key amongst them was the fact that Mboweni will be able to work with the National Treasury. “In many instances we have the problem that … ministers and their departments are in low-scale warfare with one another, and Mr Mboweni will be able to breach that divide,” Rossouw said.
Mboweni was highly respected and would be able to “restore stability and investor confidence,” he added.
He would also be able to work with the central bank as well as be able to reinforce the need for its independence. “While respecting the independence of the central bank, its very important that the minister, the treasury and the central bank work together,” said Rossouw.
The state is facing some hard financial decisions and there is a critical need to restructure government expenditure said Rossouw. “Mr Mboweni will be able to drive that,” he said, adding that among the tasks he faced was dealing with the government’s ailing state owned enterprises.
You can read the rest of that post here.
Never a dull day in South African politics, right?
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