Mcebisi Jonas declined an offer to replace Nhlanhla Nene as South Africa’s finance minister, spurring President Cyril Ramaphosa to consider central bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago and one of his predecessors, Tito Mboweni, for the job, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Jonas, a former deputy finance minister, was offered the post on Monday, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to comment. Jonas, Mboweni and Kganyago didn’t answer calls to their mobile phones.
Nene, who was appointed to his post in February after Ramaphosa became president, is under pressure to quit after he revealed last week that he met members of the controversial Gupta family at their home six times. That contradicted comments he made in a 2016 television interview that he’d only interacted with them briefly at social events.
Nene asked Ramaphosa to relieve him of his duties, the Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper reported Monday, without saying how it got the information. Nene has apologized for his conduct, although he denies having granted anyone preferential treatment or favours.
Ramaphosa declined to answer reporters’ questions about Nene at the release of a new postal stamp at his Cape Town office on Tuesday. Khusela Diko, the president’s spokeswoman, said the two men have discussed the matter.
“The president is concerned about uncertainty that this has created in the markets,” Diko said by phone. “He wants to reaffirm his commitment to economic stability and recovery. He is applying his mind to the discussions he has had with Minister Nene and the representation made by him. He will make an announcement in due course.”
The Guptas, who were friends with former president Jacob Zuma and in business with his son, were implicated by the nation’s former anti-graft ombudsman in wielding undue influence over government appointments and the awarding of state contracts -- allegations they and Zuma deny. Zuma ruled for almost nine years before the governing African National Congress forced him to quit in February and replaced him with his 65-year-old deputy and party leader, Ramaphosa.
Jonas told a judicial panel last month that Ajay Gupta offered him the post of finance minister and a 600 million rand ($40.3 million) bribe in exchange for business concessions. Jonas said he had refused, and was warned he would be killed if he spoke of the proposal. Ajay Gupta said in an affidavit that he’d never met with Jonas and the accusation was an “intentional fabrication.”