Treasury highs and lows since the disaster that was Des

10 December 2018 - 13:08
By Odwa Mjo
Former finance minister Des van Rooyen with ex-president Jacob Zuma.
Image: Gallo Images Former finance minister Des van Rooyen with ex-president Jacob Zuma.

It is exactly three years since then president Jacob Zuma shocked the world by firing Nhlanhla Nene and appointing the largely unknown Des van Rooyen as the head of the Treasury.

Nene was axed by Zuma in what is believed to be politically motivated move. Van Rooyen's appointment raised concerns as he had no track record at the Treasury or in the cabinet. He had previously served as the mayor of Merafong local municipality,

Testifying at the Zondo Commission, Treasury director-general Dondo Mogojane said the Treasury had assessed the effects of Nene's removal and Van Rooyen's appointment - and found that firing Nene as finance minister may have cost the economy as many as 148,000 jobs.

Van Rooyen held the position for only four days before being replaced by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan on December 13 2015. According to Mogojane, the JSE's market capitalisation dropped by R378bn and the rand crashed by 1.3% to the dollar after the announcement of Nene's removal. 

Since the end of Van Rooyen's disastrous stint at the helm, South Africa has seen four more finance ministers.

Pravin Gordhan 

Gordan took office in December 2015, after President Zuma succumbed to pressure to remove Van Rooyen. This was not Gordhan's first time steering the Treasury ship. He was first appointed finance minister in 2009, in the early days of the Zuma administration.  

Gordhan said at the Zondo Commission that from the moment he (Gordhan) took up the post, he was subjected to bullying and harassment to attempt to get him out of office. His time at the Treasury came to a dramatic end in March 2017, when he was abruptly removed. 

Malusi Gigaba

Zuma raised eyebrows once again after a cabinet reshuffle in 2017 which saw Malusi Gigaba leave his post at home affairs to head the Treasury. Gordhan's deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, was replaced by Sfiso Buthelezi in the same reshuffle.

The appointments raised scepticism in the markets, with the rand declining 2.8% gainst the dollar to R13.4129 by midnight after the announcement. 

Gigaba's time at the Treasury was marked by credit ratings agencies placing SA at junk status. He held on to his post until a cabinet reshuffle following the swearing in of President Cyril Ramaphosa after Zuma was forced to resign in February 2018.

Gigaba was replaced by Nhlanhla Nene and returned to Home Affairs - until he resigned in November following a string of controversies

Nhlanhla Nene 

Nene headed the Treasury under the Zuma administration from May 2014 until he was fired in December 2015 and replaced by Des van Rooyen. Some of the reasons for Nene's axing in 2015 include his opposition to Zuma's 9,600MW nuclear plans, as well as his battle with former SAA CEO Dudu Myeni, a close friend of Zuma.

Nene was re-appointed finance minister in February 2018 under Ramaphosa. However, he succumbed to pressure to resign following public outcry and pressure from the opposition in parliament. Nene resigned as an MP in October after admitting at the Zondo Commission that he had had several meetings with the Gupta family during his tenure. 

Tito Mboweni 

Following Nene's resignation and much speculation about who would take over, the presidency announced the appointment of former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni to replace Nene.

The move was well received by markets and the general public. The rand gained more than 30c to R14.7642/$ following the announcement that Mboweni would fill Nene's shoes.

Mboweni started in October and had to strap on his boots immediately to deliver his maiden budget speech just two weeks after his appointment. Now two months into the job, Mboweni has a huge task ahead of him, with one of his most pressing priorities being regaining South Africa's credit rating status.