South Africa stops diplomatic tiff with Zambia

South Africa's finance minister Tito Mboweni

by TINTSWALO BALOYI 
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – BY reprimanding his errant finance minister over an unprecedented attack on Zambia’s head of state, South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has stepped in to avert a rare diplomatic tangle between the two countries.

The Southern African nations have enjoyed cordial relations before and during apartheid as well as in recent times.

However, in an extraordinary development this past weekend, South Africa’s Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, lashed at Zambian leader, Edgar Lungu, after he fired central bank governor, Denny Kalyalya.

Lungu fired the governor on Saturday without explanation.

In a response, the excitable Mboweni expressed anger and promised to “mobilise” if an explanation was not offered.

“That governor was a good fella,” he tweeted of Kalyalya.

“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 his way. I will mobilise!!” Mboweni is quoted on social media.

While it could not be ascertained what he meant by mobilization, it is believed he would mobilise other central bank governors to demand independence from governments.

Mboweni, ever trigger-happy on social media, was governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa for ten years until 2009.

To curtail a possible diplomatic tiff, it has been confirmed Ramaphosa has reprimanded his minister.

According to a statement from his office, Ramaphosa denounced Mboweni’s posts as unfortunate.

He assured Zambia that Mboweni’s remarks did not reflect the views of the South African government and its people.

“The issue is being addressed to ensure that such an incident does not occur again,” Ramaphosa’s office stated.

South Africa reiterated that it enjoyed strong historical relations with Zambia, dating back to the days of the struggle against apartheid.

“South Africa remains committed to maintaining the deep and solid bonds of friendship between the peoples of South Africa and Zambia,” read a statement.

The two countries formally established relations in 1992, with the opening of Representative Offices.

South Africa opened its office in Lusaka that year, while Zambia reciprocated a year later.

Full diplomatic relations were established in May 1994, at South Africa’s independence. Zambia became independent in 1964.

South Africa is among the biggest exporters of Zambian goods.

Meanwhile, Christopher Mvunga is the new central bank governor after the dismissal of Kalyalya.

He previously held the role of deputy finance minister.

Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) argued the timing of Kalyalya’s dismissal was delicate given that Zambian continued to contend with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The pandemic has culminated in economic destruction across the country.

According to RMB, monetary policy had been on the forefront of support, with the central bank lowering interest rates from 11,5 percent to 8 percent year-to-date.

The financial house said given the timing of the replacement, an additional layer of uncertainty had been created with respect to monetary policy continuity.

“This will invariably gnaw at investor confidence,” RMB stated.

– CAJ News

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