President Jacob Zuma says that former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was nominated for the top position at the BRICS Development Bank.
However, Nene claims that he never received such an offer, and four months after being unceremoniously fired from the finance ministry, he has moved on – taking a job in the private sector.
In a written response to DA MP David Maynier’s questions about Nene, Zuma said: “I have publicly stated on several occasions that South Africa nominated Mr Nhlanhla Nene for the position of head of the African regional centre of the New Development Bank, also known as the Brics Bank.
“Processes to make an appointment to that position are under way under the aegis of the New Development Bank in Shanghai, China.”
On 12 December 2015, president Jacob Zuma announced a surprise shuffle in his cabinet, firing Nene as the country’s finance minister. The move caught everyone unawares – including markets, which responded negatively to the announcement, sending the rand into a tailspin.
With the rand falling as far as R17.99 to the dollar, in a matter of hours, Zuma effectively wiped as much as R500 billion from the South African economy, and was called to provide a reason why he would make such a far-reaching decision.
According to Zuma, the reason why Nene had to be fired was because he needed to be free to take up the top position at the BRICS Development Bank, and that the government was fully supporting his candidature.
The president said further when a question was raised about his reason for sacking Nene:
“It is the prerogative of a sitting president to appoint and change members of his/her Cabinet as he deems necessary.”
“It is the same prerogative enshrined in the Constitution that I exercised on December 9, 2015. Decisions to make changes to the Cabinet are made with the best intentions and for the public interest, including the economy.”
Speaking to eNCA recently, Nene said that he has now taken a position in the private sector after four months of being unemployed – though he would not say where.
According to the former minister, he was also surprised by his firing – and he was even more surprised by the far-reaching consequences of the move.
He told eNCA that the statement from the presidency giving reasons for the move was a public statement, and that he has “no reason to speculate on any other reason other than what the President said”.
During his tenure at the finance ministry, Nene worked against unchecked government spending, and was also against the proposed nuclear build which could cost the country hundreds of billions of rand.
It was speculated that the real reason for Nene being fired was his refusal to buckle to demands from Zuma’s cadre deployments at state-owned companies like SAA, but Nene dismissed this.
Following his axing, Nene resigned as a member of Parliament.