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Sun May 29 02:08:55 CAT 2016

Why all the fuss about Nene, asks Zuma

Matthew Savides | 11 January, 2016 06:29
Jacob Zuma. File photo.
Image by: Sunday Times

President Jacob Zuma believes South Africans overreacted to his decision to fire finance minister Nhlanhla Nene last month.

In an interview with news channel eNCA yesterday, Zuma defended his axing of Nene, a decision which played havoc with the rand and business confidence levels.

He said people "did not understand" his decision.

"I think the people did not understand. I think there was an exaggeration in terms of reaction.

"There is no single person who can collapse a department, especially a department like the Treasury," the president said.

Zuma replaced Nene with little-known MP and failed mayor David van Rooyen.

In the ensuing furore, Van Rooyen was days later replaced by local government minister Pravin Gordhan, himself a former finance minister.

The rand plummeted in reaction to the news and all markets reacted negatively, with economists predicting that billions of rands would be wiped off the country's balance sheet.

Economist Dawie Roodt yesterday said Zuma was right in saying that the market's reaction was not about Nene, Gordhan or Van Rooyen.

"It's about Zuma. The president showed [that] he's trying to run the state as his own back yard, as his own purse. It's not about Nene. It's about him," he said.

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