South Africa: Embattled Zuma risks facing mass Cabinet resignations if he fires Finance Minister

Embattled South Africa President Jacob Zuma. PHOTO/AFP/Stephanie De Sakutin

Zuma faces a rebellion within the ANC

South African President Jacob Zuma faces a rebellion within his own party – the African National Congress (ANC) – if he dismisses Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, with about 12 ministers considering resigning their positions and then fighting for the president’s removal, according to 4 people familiar with the situation.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and some deputy ministers may also resign, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is not public. The officials would keep their seats in parliament and possibly support or abstain from a vote of no confidence in the president if it is called by the opposition or by members of the ANC, they said.
Some lawmakers have started informal talks with the opposition Economic Freedom Front (EFF) party, they said.

Zuma told the ANC’s top 6 members and officials of the South African Communist Party (SACP), which is allied to the ruling party, that he planned to dismiss Gordhan because he was “blocking his policies”.
He ordered the finance minister to cancel meetings with investors abroad and return home, causing the nation’s currency – the rand – to plummet.

No confidence motion, impeachment?

By firing Gordhan, Zuma also risks a market meltdown. If he doesn’t, he may appear weak as he seeks to secure his choice as successor as ANC leader in December.

The main opposition party – the Democratic Alliance (DA) – wrote to parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete asking for a motion of no confidence in Zuma to be debated and voted on when Parliament reconvenes in May, party leader Mmusi Maimane said Thursday. The EFF asked the Constitutional Court to order lawmakers to start impeachment proceedings.

“President Zuma continues to play Russian Roulette with our economy,” Maimane said by email.

The ANC has used its 62 percent majority in the 400-seat parliament to block 4 motions of no-confidence, which require a simple majority to pass, and one impeachment attempt filed by the opposition since Zuma took office in May 2009.

The SACP opposed Zuma’s plan to replace Gordhan when the president informed its leaders of his intention. SACP Second Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila told reporters Thursday. It also dismissed reports that claimed Gordhan was seeking to undermine the country.

Gordhan has run the Treasury with “absolute cleanliness” and should be allowed to get on with his job without being harassed. The party “won’t allow the country to be run by gangsters,” Mapaila said.

Zuma appointed Gordhan in 2015 after a decision to name a little-known lawmaker to the position caused the rand and bonds to plunge. Since then, he has feuded with his minister over a planned nuclear power expansion and the management of state companies and the national tax agency.

Three of the ANC’s top 6 officials opposed Zuma’s plan to fire Gordhan at a meeting on Monday and the leaders agreed to meet again on April 3, according to a person with knowledge of what was discussed at the gathering and declined to be identified because a public statement hasn’t been made.
Bongani Ngqulunga, the presidential spokesman, did not answer calls to his cell phone. Ronnie Mamoepa, Ramaphosa’s spokesman, did not answer calls seeking comment.

Source: Bloomberg