Zuma axes Nene: Radebe, Davies next?

Former finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Former finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Published Dec 9, 2015


Johannesburg - Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene may be just the first casualty in a series of high-profile victims of President Jacob Zuma’s latest cabinet shake-up.

There is strong speculation in senior ANC circles that Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies are next in line for the axe, while the job of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande hangs in the balance.

Independent Media was told that talks with affected individuals continued on Wednesday night, with a strong case being made both for and against the removal of Nzimande.

Calls for his head have come from opposition parties as well as the ANC Youth League in the wake of the #FeesMustFall student protests..

Nene, meanwhile, is believed to be headed for a senior post at the New Development Bank set up by the Brics partners and launched in October

His axing is likely to cause a stir in business circles as he had portrayed continuity in fiscal policy, sticking to expenditure ceilings first announced by his predecessor, Pravin Gordhan, and giving short shrift to the government’s nuclear ambitions in his medium-term budget policy statement, despite the president’s enthusiasm for the project.

While the energy department had insisted procurement of 9 600GW of nuclear generating capacity would begin within the financial year, Nene allocated a paltry R200m towards “preparatory” work for the procurement process.

He would have been deep into preparations for delivering only his second Budget speech in February and the timing of his removal may reflect a difference of opinion over spending plans.

With business confidence at an all-time low and hard on the heels of a credit-rating downgrade, Nene’s removal is unlikely to go down well in the markets.

Apart from his apparent reluctance over nuclear, he had also clashed in recent weeks with Zuma confidante Dudu Myeni, the chair of the troubled SAA, over a bid to restructure a deal for the acquisition of new airliners

Concerns over the possible implications for the fiscus of further appeals for assistance from state-owned enterprises were among the issues flagged by the ratings agencies in their latest assessments.

Zuma said in announcing the move Nene had “done well since his appointment... during a difficult economic climate” and he would be redeployed in “another strategic position”.

His replacement, ANC MP and member of Parliament’s standing committee on finance, David van Rooyen, is a relative unknown with limited experience in government.

He holds an MSc Finance in economic policy from the University of London and a Masters Degree in Public Development and Management.

He is a former executive mayor of Merafong Municipality and a former North West provincial chairperson of the South African Local Government Association.

This is the second shock appointment to Zuma’s cabinet in just over two months, following the elevation of former Free State MEC Mosebenzi Zwane to the mineral resources portfolio at a time when the sector is in crisis.

Like Zwane, Van Rooyen is not a member of the ANC’s national executive committee.

His profile on the ANC caucus website cites interests in soccer, golf, tennis, reading and hunting.

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