October 9, 2018 / 3:11 PM / a month ago

Former South African central bank governor Mboweni takes over as finance minister

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that he had accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and appointed former central bank governor Tito Mboweni as his replacement.

Fprmer Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa Tito Mboweni speaks during the Malaysia's Central Bank - High Level Conference 2009 in Kuala Lumpur February 11, 2009. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

Nene faced calls to resign after he admitted visiting the Gupta brothers, friends of scandal-plagued former president Jacob Zuma who have been accused of high-level influence-peddling, and failing to disclose the meetings earlier.

Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.

The rand firmed moments before Mboweni was announced finance minister at a ceremony in Cape Town.

Ramaphosa said he had received a resignation letter from Nene and had decided to accept it.

“It’s a measure of his character and commitment to the country that he has decided to resign despite not being implicated in any wrongdoing,” the president said.

“I am confident that Mr Mboweni will bring the leadership that is needed now,” Ramaphosa said.

“As former governor of the Reserve bank and before that as minister of labour Mr Mboweni brings with him vast experience in areas of finance, economic policy as well as governance.”

Nene became a divisive figure in the scandal after acknowledging in a hearing that he had visited the Gupta brothers at their homes in Johannesburg, a confession his opponents said tarnished his credentials. He publicly apologised on Friday. [nL8N1WL251]

The Gupta brothers - Ajay, Atul and Rajesh - have been accused of using their friendship with Zuma, Ramaphosa’s predecessor, to siphon off billions of rand in state funds and of inappropriately influencing cabinet appointments.

The crisis over the finance minister had thrown a spotlight on Ramaphosa’s promise to crack down on corruption and boost economic growth.

Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Alexander Winning and Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Jon Boyle

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