‘It is a great honour, but I am a difficult fella’: Tito Mboweni on working with and for presidents

Finance minister Tito Mboweni told his Twitter followers about the mistakes he has made during his many years in politics.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Outspoken finance minister Tito Mboweni has opened up about working with and for presidents during his more than 25-year career in politics.

Mboweni took to his preferred medium, Twitter, at the weekend to share some of the biggest mistakes he has made while serving presidents, including the late Oliver Tambo while he was president of the ANC.

Mboweni said it was a “great honour” serving presidents because they have all tolerated his “disruptive nature”.

“I have worked for and with a number of presidents. It is a great honour, but I am a difficult fella. They have all tolerated my disruptive nature. A privilege not to be taken for granted,” said Mboweni.

Recalling his biggest mistake, the minister said: “I got a harsh warning from his (Tambo’s) assistants. Never forgot that. When a president requests a speech, you work on that pronto.”

Serving under President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mboweni has landed himself in hot water on several occasions over his unfiltered tweets.

Earlier this year, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) called on Ramaphosa to take action against Mboweni after his suggestion that a referendum be held on the use of taxpayers’ money.

In one of his tweets at the time, Mboweni said in a “proper democracy” there would be public debate that would lead to a referendum.

He also said ordinary citizens should have a say about the use of public funds, and not just political parties.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said Mboweni behaved like he didn’t want to be part of the sixth administration.

Last month, Ramaphosa “strongly reprimanded” the finance minister for his tweets criticising the removal of Zambian Central Bank governor Denny Kalyalya by President Edgar Lungu. Kalyalya was fired and replaced by Christopher Mvunga.

Reacting to the news, Mboweni threatened to “mobilise” if not given reasons why Kalyalya had been fired, saying “hell was on its way”.

“The governor was a good fella. Why do we do these things as Africans?  The president of Zambia must give us the reasons why he dismissed the governor — or else hell is on its way. I will mobilise,” said Mboweni in a now-deleted tweet.

Ramaphosa said Mboweni’s comments did not reflect the views of his government.

Zambia’s information minister Dora Siliya also weighed in, saying they were surprised about Mboweni’s criticism of a sovereign decision by Zambia. She called Mboweni’s tweets “immature” and “improper criticism”.

“The minister should be attending to Covid-19 problems facing the South Africans, our focus here. We will pursue the matter diplomatically,” she said.

BY UNATHI NKANJENI

 

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