Former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni was appointed South Africa’s new finance minister by president Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday.
He replaces Nhlanhla Nene, who offered his resignation after it emerged he repeatedly met with the infamous Gupta family, contradicting previous statements.
Mboweni has spent many hours in Saxonwold - but not at the Gupta compound. Instead he reportedly regularly visited the Ditsong Museum of Military History in the Johannesburg suburb, poring over old photographs of the South African Native Labour Corps, trying to find a photo of his grandfather. His grandfather passed away when the SS Mendi sank in 1917.
The ship sank off the south coast of England, killing more than 600 South African passengers - most of them black people who were to provide labour for the British forces.
“These soldiers who went to war without being able to carry weapons because the white government didn’t trust them. It’s a very telling chapter in our unjust history,” Mboweni told IOL.
Mboweni was born the youngest of three children on 16 March 1959 in the "beautiful and dusty village" of Bordeaux near Tzaneen. He attended the University of the North between 1979 and 1980, where he registered for a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
But, before completing his degree, he left South Africa to go into exile in 1980. While in exile, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science from the National University of Lesotho and in 1988 he obtained a Master of Arts degree in Development Economics from the University of East Anglia in England.
"I suppose you can call me an exile kid, and international kid born in South Africa but my home is in South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, the United Kingdom, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Swaziland, the USA, Switzerland and everywhere I stayed in my youth. I hate narrow nationalism, cannot stand it. I hate xenophobia," he said in a speech.
Mboweni said he was “gatvol” with South Africa’s “xenophobic police” after his son Tumelo was arrested in Sandton in 2013 for allegedly being “too dark”.
Tumelo, then 23, was travelling in a taxi when it was stopped at a police roadblock and he was asked to show his passport. “You’re a foreigner here and as you don’t have a passport, we’re going to deport you. You’re under arrest,” Tumelo told CityPress the officer told him.
After a friend fetched his passport, Mboweni's son was released from custody.
Against the wisdom of my Team, please don’t tell them this. It’s between us, I am not available for Minister of https://t.co/VmeiQvrvu7 cannot recycle the same people all over again. It is time for young people. We are available for advisory roles. Not cabinet. We have done that.— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) February 18, 2018
The 59-year old Mboweni previously served as labour minister under former president Nelson Mandela.
At the age of 39, Mboweni replaced Chris Stals as SARB governor on July 4th, 1998 - the rand promptly lost 5.3% in reaction, falling to a record low against the dollar. (In contrast, the rand bounced back from R15/$ to reach R14.67 in reaction to Mboweni's appointment on Tuesday.)
Mboweni earned global respect during his ten years as head of the central bank.
Mboweni was named central bank governor of the year by European financial magazine Euro Money in 2001. The publication credited Mboweni for defending the value of the rand, and bringing inflation down from 9% to 6.1%.
When former president Jacob Zuma basically forced Mboweni out of his job at the Reserve Bank, some in the ANC welcomed the move. Mboweni, and his larger-that-life personality, was not universally liked. Some parts of the ANC also went chilly on Mboweni after a perceived flirtation with Cope – and headlines such as “Mboweni might lead Cope” in the Sunday Times in late 2008.
THREE URGENT TASKS FOR THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION IN SOUTH AFRICA!1) The State must own 40% of all mining companies.This is easy to do. 2)The State Must create a Sovereign Wealth Fund for future generations from mining dividends. 3)A State Bank must be created URGENTLY.— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) April 27, 2018
Mboweni was accused of copying Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) policy when he called on the state to own 40% off all mining companies and the creation of a sovereign wealth fund for future generations and the creation of a state bank. At the time he also penned a prayer‚ asking God to “open the eyes and ears of our leaders”.
In an interview with Power FM, during which he called black youth on Twitter “uninformed and illiterate”, Mboweni said he does not believe white people legitimately gained rights to own land.
“African people were dispossessed of their land, nobody bought land, it was dispossessed, and then things moved on. Those who acquired the land by dispossession monetised the land and then sold it to someone else,” Mboweni was quoted as saying.
He, however, said the ANC should not take back the land by force. “We need to find a more modern way to do it, and the decision of the membership of the ANC is that we cannot pay for what was taken from us by a force of arms,” Mboweni said.
Mboweni is an avid fly-fisherman, and has encouraged black South Africans to take up the sport.
Last year, rapper Cassper Nyovest released the massive hit entitled "Tito Mboweni". The song is about money, featuring flashy cars, private planes and models rolling around in bank notes. The former Reserve Bank governor was the first black man to have his signature on South African bank notes.
The song caused a bit of trouble for Mboweni, who also jokingly demanded royalties:
Last month, Mboweni said Twitter has become “abusive and unfriendly”.
When I joined Twitter, it was for sharing, inform, educate, community, entertainment and friendships. Now it has become different. It’s abusive and unfriendly. Too many angry people there. Maybe time to say goodbye.— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) September 16, 2018
This after Mboweni insisted on speaking English on a Xitsonga SABC radio-programme. Mboweni is a native Xitsonga speaker.
There was a time when people talked about the 3 TMs ( Prez Thabo Mbeki, Trevor Manuel and Tito Mboweni). The economy even reached 6% GDP growth! Remember that! Down memory lane!! With Prez CR, we can do that again but inclusive growth. Doable. ????— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) September 12, 2018
Today I was booted out of the VIP security checkpoint at ORT. No longer allowed. Reason: unapproved person. Wow. been using this since 1994.— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) May 11, 2015
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