Finance minister Tito Mboweni’s forthright weekend tweets criticising the removal of Zambian Central Bank governor Denny Kalyalya, and highlighting the importance of central bank independence, earned swift repudiation from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa was responding to Mboweni’s criticism of Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu on Twitter for replacing Kalyalya on Saturday.
In one post, the finance minister said: ‘Presidents in Africa must stop this nonsense of waking up in the morning and fire a central bank governor! You cannot do that. This is not some fiefdoms of yours! Your personal property?! No!’
In another, he said: ‘That 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!’
Kalyalya was replaced by Christopher Mvunga.
In a statement, Ramphosa distanced the government from Mboweni’s criticism, saying the finance minister’s ‘unfortunate remarks do not reflect the views of the South African government and its people’.
Earlier, when some Zambian MPs objected to his tweets, Mboweni responded: ‘Looks like I am in trouble about my statement on the dismissal of the Bank of Zambia governor! I stand by my statement. Central bank independence is key. Not negotiable. Let all central bankers speak out!’
The saga comes against the backdrop of threats by the African National Congress to tamper with the independence of South Africa’s central bank, the Reserve Bank.