Nhlanhla Nene who was a former Member of Parliament has been described as tough and disciplined in his fiscal and political career. He is popular among his staff at the national treasury and the business community at large.
Despite the recent decline in economic progress caused by domestic political dilemma, global financial instability and an unfavourable regional drought, former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has emerged without a spot on his integrity.
Nene seems to have lost his job in December 2015 as a result of the many times he stood up to the president with his nerves of steel during a period of many controversial requests from President Zuma. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when Nene refused Jacob Zuma’s request that SAA should open a new route to Khartoum in Sudan to express support to “his brother” and president of Sudan Omar Al Bashir. Nene saw no profit coming from the idea and blatantly said no to the request.
Meanwhile, Nene has expressed his satisfaction as he told the Sunday Times that he is content at his KwaZulu-Natal home, while he waits for a potential job at the Brics New Development Bank.
“There is no panic from me at the moment,” he told the Sunday Times. “As South Africans, it’s time we allowed the situation to stabilise. We have a new minister of finance and government has stabilized right now. I must also be given space to move on.”
President Zuma officially said the reason he removed Nene was that he was being nominated to take on a senior bank role created by the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) coalition, but until now, no developments have surfaced to prove this proposal.
As a result, analysts, commentators and opposition politicians kicked against the fact that Nene needed to step down before such a position had been finalized. It would have been more logical to wait till the position was ready before removing Nene from his existing job.
Following news on Friday that Nene had resigned as an MP in December, Moloto Mothapo, spokesperson for the ANC Chief Whip, said Nene served with “distinction and dedication”.
Emerging markets economist of Nomura Peter Attard Montalto has told Fin24 that Nene’s departure as a Member of Parliament “proves his deep integrity”.
“He has come through this rough past month with his standing enhanced,” he explained. “He clearly does not want to speak out yet (on his ousting as minister), though (he) gives a subtle hint as to the uncertainty of (whether) this Brics nomination is real or not.”
“I think (this) shows that whilst battle lines are forming within the ANC, they are not set yet,” he said. “I’m confident (that) when the time comes, he (Nene) will (explain his position) in a calm and measured way.”
David Maynier, DA MP and Shadow Minister of Finance, said the resignation of Nene as an MP “after a long and distinguished career in the finance family is a blow to Parliament”.
“The former minister paid a high price for doing the right thing and speaking truth to power, and in the end sacrificed his seat because he was not prepared to sacrifice his integrity.”
Maynier also believes the unfounded suggestion that he would be appointed to the Brics bank is “increasingly looking like a blatant lie manufactured to explain away the catastrophic decision to fire him in 2015”
“Whatever the case, President Jacob Zuma will be under massive pressure to explain why he fired the former minister during the State of the Nation Debate beginning on 11 February 2016 in Parliament.”
Congress of the People party (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota said on Sunday that Nene’s axing depicts South Africa’s dip plunge into junk status was becoming a reality.
“Businesses face closure, young people have diminishing hopes of finding jobs, the economy is taking a battering, the national debt is threatening to go past 50% of GDP, the cost of servicing the national debt is becoming impossible by the day and South Africans are having to pay very dearly for Zuma’s inexplicable and stupid firing of Minister Nene”
“Junk status for South Africa’s sovereign bonds is now a looming reality.”
“The country is now in a state of crisis,” he said. “A crisis is defined as ‘a dangerous or worrying time’ or ‘a critical moment’.
“That is indeed what South Africa is experiencing,” he said. “The rand has become puny. Social tensions are reaching a boiling point. The lack of visionary and moral leadership is showing.” He concluded.
While Zuma’s last year’s state of the nation address was interrupted by clarion calls for him to “pay back the money” on his Nkandla residence, this Thursday’s address will likely be interrupted by calls for him to explain why he truly fired Nene.