Embattled South Africans are banking on Mboweni
THE cabinet’s minister of finance position has probably been the most reshuffled post in the history of our democracy. Like the rand, it appears susceptible to swings in the sentiment of outside forces.
On Tuesday, former governor of the South African Reserve Bank Tito Mboweni was sworn in as the country’s new finance minister, the fifth in less than three years.
The markets rallied and the embattled rand strengthened in affirmation as he replaced Nhlanhla Nene, who apologised and resigned – in a first for a government minister.
The markets’ reaction was in contrast to when Mboweni took up the reigns at the Reserve Bank, succeeding Chris Stals in 1999 and the rand crashed. But in the decade he led the central bank, he proved his mettle. South Africa’s foreign exchange reserves quadrupled. He went on to serve on multinational boards, including as adviser to Goldman Sachs International.
Mboweni, a trained economist, has vast experience in finance, economic policy and governance. He may well be the man for the tough job ahead to jump-start an economy mired in recession and work with President Cyril Ramaphosa to rebuild confidence in a country battered by almost a decade of mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma.
Not only is it imperative to build confidence for potential overseas investors and business people, but to restore hope in many jaded tax-paying citizens. Transforming the economy is critical to increase investment and accelerate growth which will create an impetus for employment.
Mboweni will have to steel himself as he implements stimulus for growth, cuts the fat where necessary, and guards against corruption. His politically astute negotiating skills from his time as minister of labour in Nelson Mandela’s administration will no doubt be needed as he goes toe-totoe with the unions.
But his first big task will be to present the Medium-term Budget on October 24 in the face of mounting pressure from the markets and creditrating agencies who seek reassurance of the country’s fiscal health.
Fed-up South Africans are banking on Mboweni, and as rapper Cassper Nyovest lyrically put it,