Ramaphosa must let Nene go

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.
Image: Gallo Images

President Cyril Ramaphosa should accede to embattled finance minister Nhlanhla Nene's request that he be allowed to step down.

Our economy is in a bad state and unemployment figures are getting out of hand and, therefore, we can ill-afford to have the National Treasury - an important component to a workable turn-around strategy - distracted by the affairs of the finance minister.

In a country where public trust in politicians, especially the ones serving in government is very low, Nene was widely seen as one of "the good guys".

His removal as finance minister by then president Jacob Zuma in 2015 further gained him public sympathy as this was seen as a punishment for his refusal to play along with Zuma's plan to turn national treasury into a private empowerment scheme for himself; his Gupta friends and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

However, all of this sympathy dissipated last week when Nene appeared before the Zondo Commission and revealed that he had held at least six meetings with the Guptas at their properties while serving as deputy minister as well as finance minister during the Zuma presidency.

It is not that he met the Guptas that has angered most South Africans. It is the fact that he concealed this from the public and, at least in one television interview, appeared to lie about it.

This has left many wondering why he never revealed, soon after his former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas stated that the Guptas offered him money and Nene's job in return for doing them favours, that he too had held meetings with the Guptas.

He very well may have never batted for the Guptas, and it may be true that he did all he could to fight them off, but his failure to reveal this crucial information before has seriously damaged his reputation in the eyes of the public.

It is for this reason that we believe that he has done the right thing by asking the president that he be allowed to step down. If Ramaphosa wants to send a clear message that his is a clean government that values its social compact with the electorate, he would accede to Nene's request and use the opportunity to reshuffle that would arise to also axe other ministers who have recently been found by our courts to be dishonest.

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