JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s finance minister resigned on Tuesday after acknowledging missteps during the scandal-tainted tenure of former president Jacob Zuma.
The resignation of Nhlanhla Nene was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has pledged to clean up corruption and revive South Africa’s economy, which is in recession. The president appointed Tito Mboweni, former head of the South African Reserve Bank, as the new minister and told him to be ready for a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa said he accepted a resignation letter from Nene in “the interests of good governance” and praised him, saying he quit to avoid creating distractions from the task of restoring trust in the South African government.
The president said Nene had not been implicated in any wrongdoing, though opposition parties have called for an investigation of an investment by the state-run Public Investment Corporation that may have benefited Nene’s son, Siyabonga. Nene has denied that he acted inappropriately in that case.
Last week, Nene told a corruption inquiry that he had visited the home of the Guptas, a business family linked to alleged graft under Zuma, and he later apologized for his “lapses.”
The visits occurred when he was deputy finance minister and also finance minister before Zuma fired him from that post in 2015, according to Nene. He said the economy was discussed and that he was not asked to do anything to benefit the Gupta family.
Nene said he believed he was fired because he refused to “toe the line” on projects, including a since-abandoned deal for nuclear energy, that may have benefited the Gupta family and other Zuma associates.
Ramaphosa, a former deputy president, brought Nene back into the Cabinet after replacing Zuma, who resigned in February. Zuma, who was charged with corruption, and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.
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