President Jacob Zuma late on Thursday sacked his finance minister and made ten new cabinet appointments.
The sack of finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had been rumored beforehand but the dramatic SA cabinet reshuffle was mostly unexpected.
Zuma’s party, the African National Congress, is feeling the heat of the cabinet reshuffle which saw the President clearing out a good number of senior figures in addition finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
President Zuma said in a statement that the changes were “to bring about radical socio-economic transformation and to ensure that the promise of a better life for the poor and the working class becomes a reality.”
His words, especially as applicable to the finance minister, ring false in the face of several controversies surrounding the finance ministry office and the state capture report which implicated Zuma in deals meant to benefit some elite friends.
Pravin Gordhan will be the third finance minister to be sacked in SA in under a year and investors reacted badly to his removal. There was a sharp drop in the value of the rand after the late-night SA cabinet reshuffle.
Gordhan who is a widely admired figure in South Africa was supported by several ministers and many international investors. He had led a campaign for budget discipline and against corruption. He has now been replaced by home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba.
The Eurasia consultancy said in a note about the SA cabinet reshuffle:
“Zuma’s opponents in the ruling party are likely to use Gordhan’s removal to launch a preemptive strike against Zuma and try to win back control of the ANC,”
“Longer-term, the ANC will have a hard time recovering from this period of intense instability.”
President Zuma meanwhile is due to step down as head of the party in December, ahead of the 2019 general election. As a replacement, he is seen to favor his ex-wife, former African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as a successor. If she indeed emerges as a successor for Zuma, she will have a lot of work on her hands.
Other notable movements in the SA cabinet reshuffle saw Sports minister Fikile Mbalula moved to head the police department, while struggle veteran Derek Hanekom was sacked as tourism minister.