Nene – from hero to zero under a week

It has taken approximately less than seven days for now former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene to move from being one of the most trusted and loved public servants to him now being referred to as compromised, with some questioning his integrity.

Last Wednesday, while giving testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture, Nene admitted he had met with the controversial Gupta family at least six times at their Saxonwold home during his tenures as deputy finance minister as well as during the early stages of his first stint as head of Treasury.

READ: Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene resigns, Tito Mboweni sworn in

This was contrary to comments he had previously made, and was highlighted when television news channel eNCA aired a clip of Nene denying in an interview that he was invited to any engagements with the controversial Gupta family who are at the centre of state capture allegations.

The Guptas have been accused of having undue influence over former president Jacob Zuma and his executive, as well as operations at state owned enterprises which it used to loot billions from SA.

All the while, the country’s third largest political party, the EFF had been shouting from the side-lines for Nene to “come clean”, threatening to expose him if he did otherwise.

Nuclear deal

READ: Nhlanhla Nene is not the only liar in Cabinet

The party never presented evidence, nor did it approach Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s commission with the proof it claimed to have on Nene.

While some lauded Nene for refusing to buckle while being pressurised to sign off on a nuclear deal Zuma wanted to get into with Russia, as it had the potential to sink South Africa’s already ailing economy. His testimony at the inquiry, however, left many with mixed feelings.

By Friday, Nene decided to issue an apology to the country for lying about his dalliances with the Guptas. It was widely accepted, but some quarters like the EFF said it could only be accepted if it was followed by a resignation.

Over the weekend, speculation on a possible replacement for Nene started doing the rounds, as the ANC’s top six officials met at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Limpopo farm where it is believed a request from Nene to resign formed part of discussions ahead of the party’s usual top six Monday meeting.

On Monday the Business Day newspaper reported that Nene had asked to be relieved of his duties. This was confirmed by a source to News24.

And on Tuesday, following a day of silence from the ANC and government, along with Ramaphosa’s refusal to answer journalists’ questions about the matter at a launch of a stamp in the morning, the president finally addressed the nation on Nene.

He said Nene had sent a letter of resignation on Tuesday morning where he gave reasons why he could no longer continue in the post of finance minister.

“He has indicated that there is risk that the developments around his testimony will detract from the important task of serving the people of South Africa, particularly as we work to re-establish public trust in government,” said Ramaphosa.

The president also announced former governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, would replace Nene.

As the country moves on from the saga, Nene is yet to shed more light on his meetings with Guptas, but he goes down as Cabinet’s first victim of the state capture inquiry.

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