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South Africa’s Ramaphosa rebukes minister for attacking Zambian leader

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has “strongly reprimanded” his finance minister for challenging the Zambian leader to explain his decision to sack that country’s central bank governor, the presidency said Monday.

Frank talk: South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni
Frank talk: South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni

In a surprise move, Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Saturday fired Denny Kalyalya from his post as governor of the Bank of Zambia.

No reason was given for the removal of the governor, who has been credited with bringing stability to the economy.

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni reacted angrily in a series of tweets and demanding an explanation.

“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!” tweeted Mboweni on Saturday.

“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 mobilize!”

On Sunday he wrote that his tweets had landed him in hot water, but vowed not to give up.

“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!”

He has since deleted the tweets.

– ‘Strongly reprimanded’-

A statement from the South African presidency said Ramaphosa had “strongly reprimanded” Mboweni.

He had assured the Zambian government that the minister’s “unfortunate remarks do not reflect the views of the South African government” and the “issue is being addressed to ensure that such an incident does not occur again”.

A former World Bank executive director, Kalyalya’s tenure had been due to end in 2023. He was replaced by a deputy secretary to the cabinet, Christopher Mvunga.

In a statement on Monday, the International Monetary Fund said it had noted the “change in leadership” and called for the central bank’s “independence and credibility” to be maintained.

Zambian Information Minister Dora Siliya has meanwhile expressed surprise at Mboweni’s “immature and improper criticism of a sovereign decision by Zambia”.

In a tweet on Sunday, she urged Mboweni to instead focus on the coronavirus “problems facing” South Africa.

With nearly 610,000 cases and more than 13,000 deaths, South Africa has recorded the highest numbers of coronavirus infections on the continent, accounting for more than half of Africa’s recorded fatalities.

Zambia has recorded 11,148 cases, of which 280 have been fatal. AFP

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