President Jacob Zuma has sacked South Africa’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, in a cabinet reshuffle after an emergency meeting with the ANC’s top six in Pretoria on Thursday night.
In a statement released just after midnight, Zuma confirmed Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba as the replacement for Gordhan while Sifiso Buthelezi becomes the new deputy minister.
Earlier this week, President Zuma recalled Mr Gordhan from planned official events in the UK and US.
“I have directed the new ministers and deputy ministers to work tirelessly with their colleagues 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,” President Zuma said in the statement.
Last October, Mr Gordhan was charged with fraud – but the charges, described by him as politically motivated, were later dropped.
Mr Gordhan has been seen as standing up to President Zuma in the cabinet and had warned against corruption becoming rampant.
The South African Communist Party, an ally of the governing African National Congress, had earlier lodged a formal objection to plans to dismiss Mr Gordhan, who is widely respected internationally.
Many senior ANC figures also opposed the finance minister’s removal.
Money market reacts
In reaction, the rand nose-dived from around R12.80/$ at 6 pm local time on Thursday, to R13.36 shortly before midnight after Gordhan’s dismissal was confirmed – a devaluation of 4.4% in less than six hours.
Justifying the cabinet reshuffle, Zuma said he decided to make changes to the National Executive “in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness” and that these changes would “bring some younger MPs and women into the National Executive in order to benefit from their energy, experience and expertise.”
The development follows a week of speculations after Zuma ordered Gordhan on Monday to cancel an international investor roadshow and return to South Africa. Zuma then reportedly tabled an “intelligence report” at a meeting of the ANC’s top decision-making body, which suggested that Gordhan was undermining the president’s authority.
He proposed to replace Gordhan, who had served his first tenure as finance minister from 2009-2014, with former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe, but this suggestion was rejected by the ANC leadership. Gordhan had also previously served as Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs from 2014–2015.
Institute of Race Relations’ CEO Dr Frans Cronje called for caution around the new cabinet and asked that foreign and domestic investors should look to judge it by the policy positions it adopts and the actions it takes.
“We expect a significant degree of hysterical reaction in the media and on social media over the next few days. A panicked response to the reshuffle will exacerbate its negative effects. Now is a time for cool heads and well informed and reasoned thinking on where South Africa is headed,” Cronje said.
Former Secretary General of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Mr Zwelizima Vavi, a strong critic of Zuma, has called on workers and South Africans to converge on Church Square in Pretoria on Friday for a peaceful protest. Vavi, who recently floated a parallel labour union, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) made the call in a midnight tweet.
Some analysts have praised the reshuffle for its infusion of youth and gender balance. Of the ten new ministers, 6 are male and 4 are female while the 10 new deputy ministers comprise 5 males and 5 females.
Gigaba (46), former President of the ANC Youth League and former Home Affairs Minister, had previously served in the Public Enterprises portfolio.
His tenure at Home Affairs was characterised by his introduction of strict visa regulations that impacted the tourism industry negatively. Gigaba eventually relaxed the measures due to persistent pressure from the tourism industry.
His tenure as Minister of Public Enterprises saw him calling for heads to roll as a result of delays in the building of Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile power stations, and threatening criminal prosecution in relation to contract failures.
The new Deputy Finance Minister is a 55-year-old economist who previously worked as an advisor to President Zuma. He spent almost ten years as a political prisoner on Robben Island and holds a BCom (Honours) degree in Economics.
The new ministers
Minister of Energy, Ms Mmamoloko “Nkhensani” Kubayi
Minister of Transport, Mr Joe Maswanganyi
Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba
Minister of Police, Mr Fikile Mbalula
Minister of Public Works, Mr Nathi Nhleko,
Minister of Sports and Recreation, Mr Thembelani Nxesi
Minister of Tourism, Ms Tokozile Xasa
Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Faith Muthambi
Minister of Home Affairs, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize
Minister of Communications, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo
Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba
Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Sifiso Buthelezi
Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Ben Martins
Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Ms Maggie Sotyu
Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Gratitude Magwanishe
Deputy Minister of Communications, Ms Thandi Mahambehlala,
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms Elizabeth Thabethe
Deputy Minister of Police, Mr Bongani Mkongi
Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams
Deputy Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Nomathemba November.