Ramaphosa dodges questions on Nene, says he is "hard of hearing"

Frederick Owens
October 10, 2018

But Nene revealed to a judicial inquiry last week that he had met with the Gupta business family at their home and offices six times - contradicting earlier statements that he had only met them in passing at social occasions. Ramaphosa promised to curb corruption that has contributed to South Africa's economic problems, though critics question whether he has the will and clout to scrutinize top levels of the ruling African National Congress party ahead of elections next year.

News24 has independently obtained confirmation that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties.

"I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence", he said.

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

"I have chose to accept his resignation", Ramaphosa told a televised press briefing in Cape Town.

Nine years after leaving his post as governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni is has been appointed as the nation's finance minister and faces the unenviable task of reviving an economy that's mired in recession.

While Mboweni is South Africa's fifth finance minister in less than three years, the financial markets welcomed his appointment and the rand erased losses and advanced as much as 1.4% against the dollar on Tuesday.

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Both Zuma and the Guptas - who are at the heart of the inquiry into so-called "state capture" - have denied any wrongdoing.

The party said it would have been better if Nene had acknowledged all the Gupta meetings from the onset but said the important thing was that he had taken responsibility for his weakness and resigned.

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".

He told the inquiry he was sacked by Zuma in December 2015 for blocking deals that would have benefited the Guptas, particularly a $100 billion nuclear power deal with Russian Federation that could have crippled Africa's most developed economy.

"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.

Opposition parties have called for his resignation.

The rand firmed, moments before Mboweni, was announced Finance Minister at a ceremony in Cape Town.

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