Rand drops as South Africa’s finance minister asks Ramaphosa to remove him

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to remove him after he admitted to visiting the home of the Gupta brothers, friends of scandal-plagued former leader Jacob Zuma, Business Day said on Monday, sending the rand lower.

Nene has become a divisive figure after testimony he gave at an inquiry into allegations of corruption by the Guptas, in which he admitted to the previously undisclosed visits. He made a public apology about the matter on Friday.

Zuma and the Guptas, who face numerous allegations of using their friendship for mutual self-enrichment, have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Business Day cited unidentified government sources as saying that Nene made the request to Ramaphosa at the weekend. Nene did not answer calls for comment.

“Government sources said Nene approached Ramaphosa after the highly negative public reaction to his apology to South Africans on Friday for the meetings with the Gupta family when he served under Zuma,” the South African newspaper said.

It said the issue was likely to be raised at a meeting of the ruling African National Congress party later on Monday.

The rand fell more than one percent on the report.

Treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane referred Reuters to the presidency for comment. Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman Khusela Diko did not respond to phone calls.

Nene is a key ally of Ramaphosa, who reappointed him finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle shortly after he became president earlier this year.

Ramaphosa has made clean governance and the kick-starting of an economy mired in recession top priorities.

Several ministers and government officials have been implicated in the widening graft scandals around the Guptas.

One common theme that has emerged is visits to the family’s sprawling Johannesburg property, which is why there has been public anger regarding Nene’s revelations.

Nene has also been praised by commentators for standing up to Zuma.

He told the inquiry he was fired by Zuma in December 2015 for blocking deals that would have benefited the Guptas, particularly a $100 billion nuclear power deal with Russia that could have crippled Africa’s most developed economy.

But Nene’s opponents say he was involved in corrupt deals with the Guptas when he was deputy finance minister and head of the state pension fund. He denies ever helping the Guptas.

Opposition parties have called for his resignation.

Reporting by Ed Stoddard, Alexander Winning and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Joe Brock

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