South Africa

David van Rooyen: meet the man who must fill Nene’s shoes

DAVID Douglas Des van Rooyen, the man President Jacob Zuma named as Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s successor in a shock announcement on Wednesday, has been described by economists as largely unknown, with little policy experience.

But according to the African National Congress (ANC), Mr van Rooyen holds a string of qualifications and has held a number of leadership positions in the ANC from 1994-2007.

Before this he was an MK operative and soldier, and held various leadership positions in the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and Khutsong Student Congress. He was also a United Democratic Front (UDF) representative and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) member.

His list of qualifications include:

• Advanced business management diploma;

• Diploma in municipal governance,

• Certificate in municipal governance,

• Certificate in councillor development,

• Certificate in municipal finance,

• Certificate in economic and public finance; and

• Master’s degree in public development and management.

According to People’s Assembly, which credits the source of information as, the University of London conferred a MSc finance (economic policy) to Mr van Rooyen on July 30 2014. He also recently acquired a certificate in investment analysis and portfolio management from the University of SA (Unisa).

But economists (and the market) are not convinced. Nomura International’s emerging markets economist, Peter Attard Montalto, said late on Wednesday that the Treasury’s standing had been eroded by the choice of Mr Nene’s successor.

“Van Rooyen is a member of the portfolio standing committee on finance in Parliament. He has been a member of the committee since 2011 and so, while aware of fiscal and National Treasury issues, he has no central government experience, and no provincial government experience.

“From what we have seen, he has not been particularly vocal or independent from the ANC while on the committee or in the ANC.”

Citi Research economist Gina Schoeman said Mr van Rooyen, who was whip of the standing committee on finance and whip of the economic transformation cluster, held little policy experience. “However, he is a veteran of the ANC’s military wing (MK) and thus we would infer to be close to Zuma.”

Mr Montalto described Mr van Rooyen as a former mayor of a small town in Gauteng of about 197,000 people.

“He does not appear to have had strong policy making credentials within the ANC structures over the past 20 years in the way the previous three finance ministers did.

“He has been a member of the economic development cluster of the ANC but as a ‘whip’, which normally implies a more political than policy role,” said Mr Montalto.

Mr Montalto said Mr van Rooyen was a surprise choice because the expectation was that the deputy finance minister (Mcebisi Jonas) would get the job (as Mr Nene did), being trained in the ways of the Treasury and how the institution worked.

“Bringing in an outsider makes it more of a ‘pure’ political appointment, in our view.”

Ms Schoeman added: “We expect Van Rooyen is likely to facilitate the type of consumption-led expenditure that Zuma needs to win back lost political support which is negative for fiscal policy and weakens the Treasury’s institutional strength further.”

Ms Schoeman said the news of Mr Nene’s removal was not good news for sentiment and heightened policy uncertainty again, just one week after Standard &Poor’s (S&P’s) negative outlook announcement last week. The currency reflected this, weakening immediately on the announcement, from about R14.50 to the dollar to as low as R15.38 before settling at R14.94 by midnight on Thursday.

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