Cape Town - 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 ANC, Van Rooyen holds a string of qualifications and has held a number of leadership positions in the ANC from 1994 to 2007.
Prior to this he was an MK operative and soldier, and held various leadership positions in Cosas and Khutsong Student Congress. He was also a UDF representative and NUM member.
His list of qualifications include:• Advance Business Management Diploma;
• Diploma in Municipal Governance,
• Certificate in Municipal Governance,
• Certificate in Councillor Development,
• Certificate in Municipal Finance,
• Certificate in Economic & Public Finance and
• Masters Degree in Public Development and Management.
According to People's Assembly, which credits the source of information as anc.org.za, the University of London conferred an MSc Finance (Economic Policy) to Van Rooyen on July 30 2014. He also recently acquired a certificate in investment analysis and portfolio management from UNISA.
But economists (and the market) are not convinced. Peter Attard Montalto, emerging markets economist at Nomura International, said late on Wednesday the National Treasury’s standing has been eroded by the choice of 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 Van Rooyen, who was Whip of the Standing Committee on Finance and Whip of the Economic Transformation Cluster, holds little policy experience. "However, he is a veteran of the ANC’s military wing (MK) and thus we would infer (him) to be close to Zuma."
Montalto described Van Rooyen as a former mayor of a small town in Gauteng of around 197 000 people.
"He does not appear to have had strong policy making credentials within the ANC structures over the last 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 Montalto.
Montalto said Van Rooyen was a surprise choice because expectations were that Deputy Finance Minister Mcibisi Jonas would get the job (as Nene did), being trained in the ways of the National Treasury and how the institution works.
"Bringing in an outsider makes it more of a ‘pure’ political appointment, in our view."
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 Treasury’s institutional strength further."
Schoeman said Nene's removal is not good news for sentiment and heightens policy uncertainty again, just one week after S&P’s negative outlook announcement last week.
The currency reflected this, weakening immediately on the announcement, from around R14.50/$ to as low as R15.38 before settling at R14.94 by midnight on Thursday.
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According to People's Assembly, Van Rooyen has personal interests in soccer, golf, tennis, reading and hunting.