During his Cabinet reshuffle announcement on Thursday (5 August), President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was accepting Tito Mboweni’s “longstanding request” to be “excused from his position as Minister of Finance.”
Ramaphosa appointed Mboweni to the position in October 2018 following the resignation of Nhlanhla Nene.
Tito Mboweni: The reluctant Finance Minister
However, through his Twitter account, Mboweni had signalled even before his appointment that he did not really want the job. We recall some of his tweets that showed his reluctance – before and after his appointment.
“Against the wisdom of my team, please don’t tell them this. It’s between us – I am not available for Minister of Finance. You 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,” Mboweni tweeted in February 2018, months before Ramaphosa appointed him in October of that year.
By 2020, it was clear that Mboweni was having difficulty transitioning from the private sector, where he was free to tweet his mind, to the public sector, which requires greater circumspection. As a result, he often tweeted his opposition to certain government decisions, such as bailouts to state-owned enterprises.
In March 2020, he tweeted that he had been “muzzled,” probably by the President. “I woke up this morning and found this message: ‘Stop tweeting.’ Hayibo! So I have been muzzled. I will await the unbanning order before posting original tweets. But I will retweet, like or post academic or news items. Pity,” he wrote.
Over the course of 2021, the now former Minister’s tweets revealed his increasing frustrations with government decisions that presumably went against his views. Yet, he was forced to implement some of them by virtue of his position.
“Democratic Centralism. What is that? Majority decisions by the highest decision making committee. Therefore must be adhered to by all members of an organisation. Right? But what if this highest decision making structure has made a wrong decision? The sun rises from the west! Really?” he tweeted in June.
‘There are times when it feels bad’
In July, Mboweni posted a picture of a mountain goat sitting right on the edge of a high cliff, apparently in a pensive mood as it looks over the vast spaces underneath.
“There are times when it feels bad. No way forward. But always look on the bright side. We shall overcome,” was his caption for the picture.
‘Jump before you are pushed’
Just a day earlier, Mboweni had given his clearest indication that he was ready to leave his position. “Politics ‘ebbs and flows,'” he tweeted cryptically.
“One needs a sense of the ‘political standard deviation.’ Where are things going which accord with your own ethics, values and ‘beliefs.’ Sometimes, the ship might be sailing in the wrong direction. Jump before you are pushed but don’t drown!”