South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday said Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had resigned over discrepancies in his accounts of meetings with the business family at the heart of a corruption scandal.
Nene was seen as one of Ramaphosa closest allies and a leading figure in the government’s efforts to tackle graft that allegedly flourished under former president Jacob Zuma, who was ousted in February.
But Nene revealed to a judicial inquiry last week that he had met with the Gupta business family at their home and offices six times — contradicting earlier statements that he had only met them in passing at social occasions.
“I have decided to accept his resignation,” Ramaphosa told a televised press briefing in Cape Town.
He added that Nene feared his testimony “detracted from the important task of serving the people of South Africa as we work to reestablish public trust in government.”
Nene, who was widely respected by investors, served as finance minister from 2014 to 2015 until he was sacked by Jacob Zuma and was re-appointed by Ramaphosa earlier this year.
He apologized after giving testimony to the inquiry, which is probing allegations of systematic corruption under Zuma’s government involving the three Gupta brothers.
“I was wrong in meeting the Guptas at their residence and not in my office or at least a public place,” his apology letter read.
“These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer. I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness.”
Former central bank governor Tito Mboweni was named as Nene’s successor.