Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and President Jacob Zuma Picture: Rogan Ward / Reuters

President Jacob Zuma sacked Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan because their relationship had irretrievably broken down, the African National Congress (ANC) said on Wednesday.

ANC secretary Gwede Mantashe said the ANC national working committee (NWC) accepted Zuma’s reason of the breakdown in relationship as reason why he reshuffled the Cabinet. The intelligence report on which Zuma reportedly based his decision initially “complicated matters”, he said.

“The NWC accepted the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship between the President and a member of his Cabinet as sufficient explanation for the decision taken by the President,” Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg, following an extended ANC NWC meeting.

“The issue of the intelligence report complicated the matter, creating a lot of unhappiness. This was consequently presented as the only reason for his removal which was unfortunate and incorrect.”

Since midnight reshuffle on Thursday in which Gordhan and other ministers were sacked there have been growing calls for Zuma to step down.

However, Zuma emerged victorious from the Tuesday night NWC meeting with a firm grip on power

The NWC said the “unfortunate events” that transpired following appointment of new ministers should not “detract from the fact that they, individually and collectively, are very capable comrades” who have invaluable skills and experience to offer government.

“We have no doubt they will work with integrity, dedication and humility to serve our people. The ANC wishes them well in their new roles and calls on South Africans to rally behind and support them in their quest to move our country forward,” Mantashe said.

The meeting also discussed the lack of consultation by Zuma regarding the highly criticised reshuffle. Although it was Zuma’s prerogative to hire and fire ministers, there were shortcomings in the consultations, said Mantashe.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mantashe went public and condemned the reshuffle, and said publicly that the list was developed somewhere and not from within the ANC. Ramaphosa went further to state that Zuma presented the top five ANC officials with a “ready made” list.

ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize also objected to the manner in which the reshuffle was exercised.

Mantashe said the NWC agreed that top officials criticising the ANC and Zuma in public “should not happen again”.

“The events that unfolded following the announcement of the Cabinet reshuffle by the President have created anxiety and undue confusion as a result of the discordant views, in particular of the national officials of the ANC, on the reshuffle. The officials have given to the NWC a candid report about their serious and difficult disagreement,” Mantashe said.

“They have further acknowledged that their public dissonance on the matter was a mistake that should not be committed again.”

The meeting was also unhappy with calls by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Community Party (SACP), the ANC alliance partners, who joined public calls for Zuma to resign.

The ANC would “engage the alliance partners and civil society”, said Mantashe.

ANC deputy secretary Jessie Duarte said the ANC knew from last year November that Zuma wanted to remove Gordhan.

“He did tell us last year, and the reasons were the breakdown in relationship … so yes we knew about this matter a long time ago.”