South African Finance minister Nene resigns

Tuesday October 09 2018

South African Finance minister of Nhlanhla Nene, who announced his resignation on October 9, 2018. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


South African Finance minister Nhlanhla Nene resigned Tuesday over undisclosed meetings with the business family at the heart of a corruption scandal, dealing a blow to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Mr Nene was seen as one of President Ramaphosa's closest allies and a leading figure in the government's efforts to tackle graft that allegedly flourished under Jacob Zuma, who was ousted in February.

But Mr 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.

Act of wrongdoing

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

He added that Mr Nene feared his testimony to the inquiry "detracted from the important task of serving the people of South Africa particularly as we work to reestablish public trust in government."


President Ramaphosa stressed that Mr Nene "has not been implicated in any act of wrongdoing himself" and hailed him as minister who had "defended the cause of proper financial management as well as clean governance".


South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Mr Nene, who was widely respected by investors, served as Finance minister from 2014 to 2015 until he was sacked by Mr Zuma and was re-appointed by President Ramaphosa earlier this year.

Mr Nene apologised after giving testimony to the inquiry, which is probing allegations of systematic corruption under Zuma's government involving the three Gupta brothers.

"I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place," his public apology letter read.

Transport deals

"These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer. I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness."

Former central bank governor Tito Mboweni was named as Mr Nene's successor.

The Guptas are a trio of Indian-born brothers accused of fraudulently profiting from vast government contracts and energy and transport deals under Zuma, who ruled from 2009 to 2018.

President Ramaphosa has vowed to crack down on corruption as he tries to revive the economy and boost declining support for the ruling ANC party ahead of elections next year.