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Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation as finance minister has been accepted by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni was announced as the new finance minister on Tuesday, following a week of speculation over the fate of Nene.

For one, this means that the medium-term budget statement will be presented by South Africa’s third finance minister to be appointed in a space of eight months. Nene has been under the spotlight since testifying at the commission of inquiry into state capture last Wednesday that he met with members of the Gupta family in his official capacity at the family’s home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.

This was during his first term as finance minister, before being fired by former president Jacob Zuma in December 2015. His testimony contradicted his earlier position during an interview with eNCA in 2016 that he only saw them briefly at state functions and had not had substantial engagements with them.

There had been many calls from several quarters, including opposition parties and ANC alliance partners Cosatu for him to be removed.

The Sunday Times reported on the weekend that Nene had asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties. Prior to this, he had released a statement asking for forgiveness from South Africans for withholding the truth about meeting the Guptas. Both in his testimony and in the statement Nene asserted that he had never been asked by the family, for any favours.

During the eNCA interview, he told journalist Siphamandla Goge: “I bumped into them during public gatherings, but I’ve never had an engagement and I’ve never been asked by them to do anything for them,” Nene said in the 2016 interview, when asked if he had ever been asked by the Guptas to meet with them.

About a month prior to the interview, his former deputy Mcebisi Jonas, had held a press conference during which he revealed that Ajay Gupta had offered him a promotion to Nene’s post in late 2015, as well as a R600-million bribe. According to Jonas’ own testimony, also made at the commission in August, he then told Nene about the meeting at which the offer had been made. Both men testified Nene’s first reaction was to suggest that Jonas resign.

Coming clean about Gupta meetings

Under cross examination by commission evidence leader Paul Pretorius, Nene said there had been several meetings, usually at the invitation of Ajay, who on one occasion said he just wanted to talk about the economy. He reiterated that he had never been asked by them for favours.

It was only when there seemed to be a dispute between the brothers and Independent Media owner Iqbal Survè regarding the terms of a Public Investment Corporation (PIC) loan taken out by Survè that he was asked to intervene, by Ajay. As the head of treasury, said Nene, he automatically becomes the chairman of the PIC. He told the commission that on this occasion he rejected Ajay’s request, citing his obligation to an impartial stance as governed by his office.

Nene did, however, use his discretion on meeting with the brothers: “Part of my duty as a public office bearer is to meet fellow South Africans and other stakeholders when they request to do so.

“However, I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place,” Nene said in his statement.

“I thought it would do no harm to honour the invitation and hear him [Ajay] out,” he responded when asked by Pretorius if he had met the brothers at their home. “I had no reason to think that it might have an adverse impact.”

Nene further admitted that despite reports of alleged corruption linked to the Estina dairy project in the Free State, a provincial government initiative that allegedly benefited the family and their associates unduly, “I thought I should not be influenced by just the investigation, which had not been concluded.”

Public sentiment building against Nene

There has been a flood of responses to the Nene revelations. The EFF asked Ramaphosa to honour Nene’s request and remove him from Cabinet. “We reiterate our position that his continued stay as minister of finance is not in the best interest of South Africa. Treasury cannot be presided over by a person without integrity.”

The DA and the UDM have also followed suit, citing the importance of professional integrity in the person who holds the position of finance minister.

Cosatu had also made a plea to Nene to step down, according to EWN.