Jesuits condemn removal of South African finance minister

The Jesuit Institute South Africa has expressed its concern about President Jacob Zuma’s removal of Nhlanha Nene as the country’s Minister of Finance, claiming that the decision “spells disaster for the stability of an embattled economy” and raises questions about President Zuma’s ability to lead the country. 

Although finance minister for just over 18 months, Mr Nene was widely respected for his questioning of public utility management and public servant wage increases, as well as his opposition to the purchase of a new private jet for the president.

South Africa’s currency fell close to a record low against the dollar in the aftermath of the announcement, and stock prices fell in Johannesburg as the president’s decision met with widespread criticism.

Describing the president’s unexplained decision as “grossly irresponsible”, the Jesuit Institute said “There seems to be no doubt that the President fired Nene because he would not allow Zuma and some of his cadres to spend money recklessly, for personal gain, and in so doing risk the integrity of the Treasury”.

The institute praised Mr Nene’s insistence on “tight fiscal discipline in the face of a growing deficit and a worrying economic forecast” and his refusal to “bow to political pressure”, recalling how Pope Francis spoke recently in Kenya of how “the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal” in the work of building a respectful and cohesive democratic order. 

Mr Nene’s removal, the institute said, is “not good news for South Africa” as it “compromises the common good”.