Rumbles in ANC against axing of Indian-origin Finance Minister

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Johannesburg, April 1 (IANS) South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) treasurer general, Zweli Mkhize, on Saturday said he had “reservations” about President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle that saw Indian-origin Pravin Gordhan ousted as Finance Minister even as the widely-respected minister slammed allegations he held a secret meeting abroad in an attempt to undermine the country and its economy.

Mkhize said the ANC leadership should have been consulted on Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle.

“Unlike previous consultations which take place with senior officials of the ANC during such appointments and changes to the composition of the national executive, the briefing by the President left a distinct impression that the ANC is no longer the centre and thus depriving the leadership collective of its responsibly to advise politically on executive matters.”

The ANC needs to be able to justify all its leadership decisions as a collective, he said, and previous decisions have ordinarily been handled that way.

Zuma dismissed Gordhan as part of a late night cabinet shuffle in which 10 of 35 ministers were fired.

Jackson Mthembu, a senior ANC lawmaker, said Gordhan’s only crime was “incorruptibility.”

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Gordhan has slammed allegations that he held a secret meeting abroad in an attempt to undermine the country and its economy.

“What sickens me is the allegation that I had secret meetings to undermine this country… let me say categorically, there was no such meeting. Why would we do that,” Gordhan said on Friday.

The surprise sacking led to the rand slipping four per cent against the US dollar, reported Independent Online portal.

Gordhan and former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas addressed the media in the National Treasury building, just hours before they were set to be removed, South Africa’s News 24 reported.

During the press conference, Gordhan said they were not “walking out of the door voluntarily”, adding the so-called intelligence report that had been used to justify their firing was “absolute nonsense”.

According to the report, Gordhan and Jonas had set up secret meetings to start what it called “Operation Check Mate” to sabotage Zuma. This led to Zuma calling on Gordhan to cancel the international investment roadshows to Britain and the US and immediately return to the country this week.

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Gordhan has been replaced by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Jonas by Sfiso Buthelezi.

Jonas described the intelligence report as nonsensical, saying: “It’s like it was written by amateurs. It’s so fundamentally flawed”.

Gordhan strongly criticised the Indian-South African Gupta family, who is said to have close ties with Zuma, for orchestrating a campaign to malign him, Jonas and democratic institutions in South Africa.

He said both he and Jonas had joined the liberation struggle as youths to help bring South Africa to where it is today.

Gordhan called on the masses to organise, saying it was up to them to make history, not individuals.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his dissatisfaction with Gordhan’s sacking, adding that Zuma presented the top African National Congress (ANC) leadership with a “ready made” list of the new Cabinet without consultation.

Gordhan first served as finance minister between 2009 and 2014. Zuma appointed him for the same portfolio after sacking two other finance ministers within a month.

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It was the period of turmoil that hammered South Africa’s markets and currency, but Gordhan helped stabilise the situation.

According to media reports, Gordhan and Zuma clashed over issues such as the management of state-owned enterprises and the need for big new economic plans.

Gordhan maintained that the hard work done by Treasury officials should not be undone.

“Any undoing of confidence or decline of rating status of country will hurt ordinary South Africans. South Africans must not pay for nonsense that happens elsewhere,” News 24 quoted Gordhan as saying.

Analysts have warned that dismissing Gordhan and other key cabinet ministers could cause chaos, a CNNMoney report said.

Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, criticised the President’s decision to fire Gordhan.

South Africa’s main opposition party, Democratic Alliance, said it would try to remove the President via a vote in Parliament.

“We therefore urge all political parties, including members of the ANC, to vote President Jacob Zuma out when (our) motion of no confidence is debated in the National Assembly,” said the party’s leader Mmusi Maimane.



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