10. December 2015

Zuma fires finance minister Nene, rand crashes to record R15,38/US$

In a shock move last night, President Jacob Zuma sacked finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with a relatively unknown member of parliament, David van Rooyen. In unusually strong language, Zuma said he had “decided to remove” the finance minister but gave no reasons for the unprecedented move.
The rand dropped to a record R15,38/US$ after the shock announcement, from below R14,96/$ the day before.
Nene has recently had run-ins with the board of SA Airways, chaired by Zuma’s close personal friend Dudu Myeni, who has reshuffled the state-owned airline’s top leadership and irregularly appointed no fewer than four chief executives in the past three years. Business Day newspaper reported last week that Nene had recently prohibited SAA from proceeding with a deal to buy aircraft from Airbus.
The deal “would leave SAA in a materially worse off financial position where it is unable to meet commitments as they become due”, said Nene in a letter to SAA’s board.
Nene’s replacement, David van Rooyen, is a former mayor of Merafong (Carletonville) municipality in Gauteng, which was rocked by service delivery protests during his tenure.
Never before has a finance minister been fired during their term in the post-1994 dispensation in SA. His predecessors, Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan, served their full terms before being appointed to different portfolios.
The first two ministers appointed in the government of national unity in 1994, Derek Keys and Chris Liebenberg, resigned of their own free will only after a short time in the portfolio.
Appointed into the position only after last year’s election, Nene is the second minister in a key economic portfolio to be sacked this year. Former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi was replaced with Mosebenzi Zwane in a shock move in September, weeks after he allegedly had a run-in with Bridgette Radebe over a mining licence.
Radebe is the wife of minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe, and also chair of Mmakau Mining, a black economic empowerment entity with minority stakes in coal mining ventures.
Insiders also said Ramatlhodi had refused to pressure staff in his department to fast track a mining licence application by a company in which Zuma’s son, Duduzane, has a stake. He was moved to the public service administration department a week after declining to expedite the process, say sources with intimate knowledge of the matter. (Financial Mail, Johannesburg)

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