JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s finance minister on Monday faced calls to resign after he acknowledged visiting the home of a business family linked to alleged corruption under former president Jacob Zuma.
Opposition parties cited a South African media report that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had offered to quit, saying President Cyril Ramaphosa should dismiss him to show commitment to clean government in one of Africa’s biggest economies.
“South Africa is undergoing serious economic difficulties and massive job losses, and one of the ingredients towards economic recovery is a credible Minister of Finance,” said Julius Malema, head of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters.
The biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, issued a similar call, saying Nene is likely to be the subject of lengthy investigations and that he risks “compromising public confidence” in the National Treasury.
Nene’s appointment to Ramaphosa’s Cabinet this year was widely welcomed as a break from the alleged plundering of state resources. But Nene apologized last week after telling a commission of inquiry about visits that he made years ago to the businesses and home of the Gupta family, who along with Zuma deny any wrongdoing.
“These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer,” Nene said in a statement. “I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness.”
The visits occurred when he was deputy finance minister and also finance minister before Zuma fired him from that post in December 2015, Nene testified. He said the economy was discussed and that he was not asked to do anything to benefit the Gupta family.
Nene said he believed he was fired because he refused to “toe the line” on projects, including a since-abandoned deal for nuclear energy, that may have benefited the Gupta family and other Zuma associates.
Ramaphosa, a former deputy president, brought Nene back into the Cabinet after replacing the scandal-tainted Zuma, who resigned in February. Ramaphosa promised to curb corruption that has contributed to South Africa’s economic problems, though critics question whether he has the will and clout to scrutinize top levels of the ruling African National Congress party ahead of elections next year.