It was almost impossible to imagine how South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma could sink any lower in the estimate of the general public, but the President has once again provided relevant ammunition to the opposition which persist in their hearty cries for his resignation. Although the current upheaval is not a result of any new moves made by the President, the revelations by Deputy Finance Minister; Mcebisi Jonas who came forward on Wednesday to reveal alleged information behind the sack of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene may prove to be the final straw that South Africans can take from their President.
It was in December 2015 that President Zuma decided to sack the then finance minister; Nhlanhla Nene and the repercussions from just that one action on the nation’s economy was far-reaching. He had replaced Nene with a relatively unknown political figure who had no prior financial background so to speak; David van Rooyen and the move shocked the financial markets causing the Rand to fall in value, it was in fact put in simple terms; a good example of a bad political decision that did not even ascribe to a publicly shared logical reason.
The criticism for that particular action sent the opposition parties into a frenzy of calls for Zuma’s resignation and everyone in South Africa viewed their President with a little wonder. President Zuma then replaced Van Rooyen 5 days later with the current finance minister, Pravin Gordhan who has formerly held the position from 2009 to 2014.
So why after all this time has passed is the issue of Nene’s sack coming up, why is it even so important on the heels of the Nkandla scandal and many other publicized missteps of the President or considering the more recent saga involving the South African police force and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, why despite all these does this bit of recent history seem to be the most damaging part on the credibility of Zuma’s government. Well, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas alleged on Wednesday that the Gupta family (a powerful and wealthy business family in South Africa) offered him Nene’s job before they offered van Rooyen.
He said he had rejected the offer on the grounds that it violated South Africa’s democracy, which allows only the President appoint Ministers. It is not a new accusation as the Gupta family have been cast in the light of having undue, illegal say in public policy and influence over the President. Mcebisi’s revelation has however brought the issue to the forefront and the dent to Zuma’s credibility and the risk of roiling South Africa’s already shaky markets, makes it easy to understand why the matter is rocking the government.
The Gupta family have denied the accusation and challenged Jonas to provide an account of the meeting and the office of the President has remained silent on the matter. Zuma’s ruling African National Congress has however spoken via spokesman Ziza Kodwa that the issue will not be taken lightly and the ANC will take unspecified action at a meeting it will have for key decision-making organs this weekend. Zuma is also set to face questions in parliament and although the matter could go the way of others like it, it appears more likely that the State of The Nation Address chants by opposition party members of ‘Zupta must go’, may indeed come to pass.