South Africa's economy is in a mess. New finance minister must hit the road running

6 days ago
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, introduces the country's new Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, in Cape Town. Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

The latest reshuffling of South Africa’s finance minister, following the resignation of Nhlanhla Nene and appointment of Tito Mboweni, may have negative origins but it brings with it some positive energy.

Nene resigned as finance minister after it emerged that he lied about the nature of his contact with the controversial Gupta family, the friends of former President Jacob Zuma who stand accused of championing massive misappropriation of public funds in a process branded as state capture.

In an initial response to a journalist’s question, Nene claimed that he had only met the Guptas in passing. But in his recent testimony to a commission investigating state capture he admitted that he’d met Gupta family members on numerous occasions, including a number of visits to their house and their offices.

The inconsistency tarnished his integrity and sparked massive public criticism. Within a week of making his admissions he resigned. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa immediately appointed former South African Reserve Bank governor Mboweni as the new finance minister.

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South Africa's stimulus package shows power is finely balanced in the ANC

1 week 1 day ago
Cyril Ramaphosa's economic stimulus package shows that he and his political allies are in charge of economic policy. GCIS

The economic stimulus package announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa shows that he and his political allies are, contrary to much analysis in recent months, in charge of economic policy.

Ramaphosa insists that it is a ‘bold’ attempt to initiate economic change which will particularly benefit youth, women and small businesses . It rests partly, he adds, on ‘significant regulatory reform’.

But the package is more interesting for what it says about the politics of economic decision-making in South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) than for its likely impact on the economy.

Certainly, it does not signal readiness by Ramaphosa and his allies to use their power to introduce much-needed reforms. In an article in the financial press explaining the thinking behind the package, Ramaphosa acknowledged that it rested not on new ideas but on trying to get the government to do what it has already said it will do. He wrote that it was “tempting to unleash novel policy directions” but it was far more important “to build a track record of successful implementation.”

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