South Africa‘s President Jacob Zuma has come under mounting pressure over his decision to sack Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in a dramatic cabinet reshuffle after days of speculation that rocked the country’s markets and currency.
A statement from the president’s office in the early hours of Friday said Zuma had replaced Gordhan with Malusi Gigaba, former minister of home affairs. Sfiso Buthelezi was also appointed as deputy finance minister, a post previously held by Mcebisi Jonas.
In a televised statement, Zuma, the head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said he was making room for new talent and ideas, as he announced changes to 10 of the country’s 35 ministries, including energy, police and tourism.
“The changes bring some younger MPs and women into the national executive in order to benefit from their energy, experience and expertise,” he said.
But Zuma’s move to replace Gordhan, respected by many as a responsible steward of an economy facing possible credit rating downgrades, drew widespread criticism – even within ANC’s ranks.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is one of the leading candidates to replace Zuma as ANC president, expressed his “strong objection” to Gordhan’s removal, describing it as “totally, totally unacceptable”.
The comments by Ramaphosa, who usually publicly backs Zuma, were a sign of deepening division in the ANC that are likely to worsen until the party elects a new leader in December.
“Divisions within the ANC have been laid bare this week, and despite party leaders and allies warning against Gordhan’s sacking, the president has done what he wanted to, stamping his authority on cabinet and the ruling party,” Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from Johannesburg, said.