President Jacob Zuma has fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and replaced him with Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in a dramatic midnight Cabinet reshuffle.
Gordhan’s deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, was also axed and replaced by Sifiso Buthelezi.
Zuma fired five ministers in total in the far-reaching reshuffle. Apart from Gordhan, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, who last year called on him to step down, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Public Service and Administration Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi were also axed from Cabinet.
“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,” Zuma said in a brief statement.
Zuma loyalist and MP Mmamoloko Kubayi was named the new energy minister, while unpopular Communications Minister Faith Muthambi will replace Ramthlodi. The communications portfolio will be filled by Ayando Dlodlo Ndlovu.
The president named Fikile Mbalula as the new police minister, with Nathi Nhleko moving from that seat to the public works portfolio, replacing Thulas Nxesi.
The reshuffle affected 14 portfolios and saw Zuma name ten new ministers and deputy ministers.
It followed a week of intense negotiations with African National Congress leaders and alliance partners. The South African Communist Party confirmed earlier Thursday that Zuma planned to fire Gordhan after a 15-month tug of war over control of state resources.
As unconfirmed reports that he would make act on that stated intention filtered from the Union Buildings, the rand continued a downward spiral that began on Monday, when he abruptly ordered Gordhan back home from talks with investors in London.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe confirmed in a radio interview that Zuma did not have the full support of the party for the reshuffle. The president had pushed ahead and exercised his “constitutional powers” he said.
When the ANC top six met on Monday, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize and Mantashe had reportedly firmly opposed the sacking of Gordhan though Zuma cited an alleged plot as proof that his relationship with the treasury chief was beyond repair.
Gordhan’s popularity was evident when he was given an ovation at the funeral of anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada on Wednesday. Zuma had been informed by the Kathrada family that he would not be welcome at the funeral.
Shortly before the Cabinet changes were announced on Thursday night, international relations spokesman Clayson Monyela hinted on his twitter timeline that Zuma had picked Gigaba and Buthelezi to take over at the finance ministry and warned: “This won’t end well”.
Democratic Alliance spokesman David Maynier commented that by replacing Gordhan with Gigaba, the president had seized control of the state coffers.
Maynier noted that Gigaba had no experience of the finance sector and warned the markets would not react well to his appointment.
“The appoint of the new Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, means that National Treasury is now firmly under the political control of President Jacob Zuma,” he said.
Zuma replaced Hanekom with Tokozile Xasa and named Hlengiwe Mkhize as the new home affairs minister.
He made Ben Martins deputy minister of public enterprises and Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba deputy minister of public service and administration.
Gordhan’s last week as finance minister saw National Treasury submit argument in two cases before the Pretoria High Court, both centred around the banking woes of the politically influential Gupta family.
On Wednesday, judgment was reserved in his application for a declaratory that he could not intervene to reverse the blacklisting of the family’s companies by commercial banks.
On Thursday, National Treasury opposed an application by Vardospan for an urgent interdict that would pave the way for it to buy Habib Overseas Bank. The company was co-founded by Salim Essa, a business partner of the Guptas.