Van Rooyen sworn in as new finance minister

10 December 2015 - 15:57 By TMG Digital, AFP

David van Rooyen was sworn in as the country’s new finance minister at a ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon. WATCH #ZumaFinance Van Rooyen sworn in. MV — Maryke Vermaak (@MarykeVermaak) December 10, 2015dAVan Rooyen’s appointment was announced by President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday night in a surprise Cabinet reshuffle.He replaces Nhlanhla Nene whom Zuma said would be redeployed in a new strategic position in due course.Van Rooyen served as the Whip of the Standing Committee on Finance and as Whip of the Economic Transformation Cluster.He was also a former executive mayor of Merafong Municipality and a former North West provincial chairperson of the South African Local Government Association.Protesters set several councillors' houses on fire over his plan to move the municipality from Gauteng into North West province.He resigned from his position there in 2009, and the decision to move the municipality was reversed.A monumental assignmentSpeaking shortly after being sworn in to the portfolio‚ van Rooyen said: “Mine is a colossal assignment”.He said that “all economic indicators are pointing to the south” and pledged that he would ensure that “every policy is directed at creating favourable investment decisions”.He said these needed to benefit “all South Africans not just a few”.He said his priority would be to improve what he described as the “accessibility” of the Treasury.“The area that we think we need to improve on under the leadership of the ANC is the area of accessiblilty. The national treasury is the axis of our development agenda. It must be accessible.”Elaborating‚ he said the treasury needed to “open up and ensure that national treasury becomes an accessible department to all our people‚ including in the rural areas. It’s our duty as a ministry to simplify issues of public finance”.'Historic lows'The rand didn't react well to Nene's sacking, dropping to historic lows.South Africa has faced mounting financial problems in recent years, with unemployment at over 25 percent, GDP growth grinding almost to a halt and power cuts hobbling industry."We view this as profoundly negative," Peter Montalto, an analyst at Nomura, said in a scathing criticism of the president's decision."The removal of a technocratically sound, decent, hardworking, well respected, fiscally conservative and reform-minded Finance Minister is a serious blow."Montalto said Nene's surprise sacking appeared to be because he publicly slapped down a move by state-owned South African Airways (SAA) to renegotiate a plane-leasing deal with Airbus.Nene, who was appointed in 2014, also criticised the affordability of a nuclear plant-building programme.Both projects are seen as being controlled by Zuma loyalists, who are regularly accused of using their influence to benefit from government contracts.Nene's sacking came less than a week after South Africa was moved closer to "junk" status by credit rating companies, which highlighted growth predicted at a sluggish 1.4 percent this year, and rising interest and inflation rates.Falling commodity prices have also added pressure to the country's key mining sector.Irresponsible"We are in a crisis, and (Zuma) decides to get rid of the finance minister, and replace him with somebody without any experience," Dawie Roodt, economic analyst at Efficient Group, told AFP."That is a very irresponsible thing to do."Our economy is in deep trouble (and) we are expecting a possibility of a credit downgrade."It sounds like a personal decision, not a decision meant for the wellbeing of the country. We have a president who cares very little about the damage caused by his actions."The rand dropped more than five percent after Nene's removal, hitting a record low of 15.3857.On Thursday afternoon, it was trading at 15.03 to the dollar.

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