Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba flanked by New Development Bank's chief financial officer, Leslie Mansdorr (right) and chief operations officer Xian Zhu (left) at the launch of the African Regional Centre in Johannesburg.

Johannesbug - Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday distanced himself from the controversy surrounding the non-appointment of his predecessor, Nhlanhla Nene, to the New Development Bank, almost two years after the post was promised him.

The  current acting head of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank is Tumisang Moleke, the director of the Public Private Partnership Unit at National Treasury.

Asked to comment whether Nene was still a candidate for the top job at the bank, Gigaba said he could not be drawn into the matter as he was not involved when the process was initiated. 

"Let me start with Mr Nene. I wouldn't know. I didn't appoint him. I don't know what happened [because] I was not involved in that process. I think you can ask someone else," Gigaba said. 

Gigaba was speaking during a media briefing following the official launch of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank in Johannesburg.

President Jacob Zuma hastily recalled Nene as finance minister in December 2015, saying his name had been put forward to head the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank, a move that sent the rand on a nosedive. 

At the time, Zuma said the urgency of the change in leadership of the National Treasury was "occasioned by the need to send nominations to Shanghai, of the head of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank/Brics Bank, to be based in Johannesburg".

But the promise never materialised and Nene has since taken various private sector jobs and resigned as an African National Congress (ANC) member of parliament following his sacking. 

The New Development Bank is a development banking institution created by the BRICS member states ( Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as an alternative to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. 

Headquartered in Shanghai, China, the bank is meant to boost infrastructure development in the five member states and other emerging economies.

Zuma, who officiated the opening, said that he expected that the bank, through the Africa Regional Centre, to contribute to accelerating infrastructure investment in energy, transport, water and other productive sectors in Africa. 

"I am encouraged by the recent announcement made at the Second Annual Meeting of the New Development Bank Board of Governors in New Delhi to increase the bank’s lending to U.S.$2.5 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year. This announcement has come at an opportune time for South Africa as we need more projects," Zuma said. 

Last week, former governor of SA Reserve Bank Tito Mboweni's contract as a non-executive director of the BRICS New Development Bank was not renewed after serving a two-year term. 

Mboweni was replaced by National Treasury director-general, Dondo Mogajane.

Deputy finance minister, Sfiso Buthelezi, also serves as the alternate governor of the bank for South Africa while deputy director-general for economic policy at the National Treasury, Monale Ratsoma, serves as alternate director of the National Development Bank for South Africa.