27 Feb

Nhlanhla Nene Makes Comeback as South African Finance Chief

South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, made sweeping changes to the cabinet, bringing Nhlanhla Nene back as finance minister more than two years after his late-night firing rocked the rand.

The reshuffle announced Monday by Ramaphosa in the capital, Pretoria, marked a dramatic comeback for Nene, who was dismissed by former President Jacob Zuma in December 2015. David Mabuza, the deputy leader of the African National Congress, will become deputy president.

The shakeup came 11 days after Ramaphosa was elected president in place of Zuma, who was forced to resign under pressure from the ANC.

“These changes are intended to ensure that national government is better equipped to implement the mandate of this administration,” Ramaphosa said. “I have been conscious of the need to balance continuity and stability with the need for renewal, economic recovery and accelerated transformation.”

Nene served as deputy finance minister before taking over the post of finance chief from Pravin Gordhan in 2014 and won the respect of investors before his firing. Since then he’s taken up a position on the board of fund manager Allan Gray, become an adviser to Thebe Investment and served as temporary head of the University of Witwatersrand’s Business School.

Nene will spearhead efforts to revive an economy that only grew about 1 percent last year, drive down a 27 percent unemployment rate and rebuild investor confidence that was badly damaged during Zuma’s scandal-marred nine-year tenure.

“It’s quite a tall order,” Nene said by phone after the announcement. “I feel it’s time we all rolled up our sleeves, and I trust that the collective is going to give one the required support.”

The rand gained as much as 0.8 percent against the dollar on reports Nene was to be appointed, before trimming its advance. It was little changed at 11.5670 per dollar by 9:50 a.m. in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Yields on rand government bonds due in 2026 rose one basis point to 8.03 percent.

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