South Africa’s finance minister is facing calls for his resignation a mere eight months after he was appointed to the position. The calls come after the minister admitted to visiting the home of a business family linked to alleged corruption under South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma.
Several opposition parties in South Africa have pointed to comments from Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene where he offered to quit. But that has not stopped people from calling on the country’s president to sack the Nene in a show of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to clean governance.
"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, who is the head of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters.
The biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, issued a similar call. A statement from them said 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 earlier this year was widely welcomed as a break from the alleged plundering of state resources. But this all changed last week when he apologised to the nation about the visits he had made to the businesses and home of a Gupta family member. The information was revealed in a statement Nene delivered in front of a commission of enquiry that is looking into state corruption.
The Gupta family and Zuma both 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 during the time when Nene was deputy finance minister and also during the time he was finance minister before Zuma fired him. The former president relieved him of his duties 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, which included a since-abandoned deal for nuclear energy. According to the Associated Press, it is believed the deal may have benefited the Gupta family and other Zuma associates.
Ramaphosa, the former deputy president of the country, brought Nene back into the Cabinet after replacing the scandal-tainted Zuma, who resigned from the presidency in February. Since taking office, Ramaphosa has promised to curb the corruption that has long contributed to South Africa's economic problems. There are, however, some critics who are unsure if he has the will and clout to scrutinise the top levels of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party ahead of elections next year.