In the wake of the biggest Cabinet reshuffle since 1996, civil rights organisations and trade unions have vowed to take to the streets on Friday to protest the removal of key ministers, especially Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Section27, SaveSA, and the newly-formed South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) have all called on the country’s citizens to reject the firing of Gordhan.
This comes after President Jacob Zuma fired Gordhan as finance minister and replaced him with Malusi Gigaba, the former minister of home affairs, in a dramatic midnight Cabinet reshuffle.
Gordhan’s deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, was also axed and replaced by Sifiso Buthelezi.
The rand weakened four percent to a three-week low since the axing of Gordhan, currently trading at R13.57/$, R16.93/£ and R14.51/€ respectively, and leaving South Africa on the brink of a much-feared downgrade rating to junk.
Zuma fired five ministers in the far-reaching reshuffle.
Apart from Gordhan, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, who last year called on Zuma 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.
TAC and Section27 said in a statement that people living in South Africa must reject and oppose “Zuma’s dictatorship”, and called on concerned citizens to gather at Church Square in Pretoria at 10am for a march.
“What is happening in South Africa with the firing of Pravin Gordhan and other Ministers is tantamount to a coup. It is not being done to advance our Constitution or to fulfil his duties, but to advance a faction and a gang of serious thieves,” TAC and Section27 said in a joint-statement.
“We view these moves by Jacob Zuma as a threat to our lives and peace. The moment has arrived for people living in South Africa to peacefully take to the streets and exercise our democratic and hard won right to protest. We are back to an authoritarian state. We call on ANC leaders who spoke out at Uncle Kathy’s funeral to act now. We have the power to stop this.”
Zuma also 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 10 new ministers and deputy ministers.
SaveSA said the latest development was a “Gupta coup” and final confirmation that Zuma‚ the government and the country had been captured.
SaveSA called on all citizens to assemble outside National Treasury on Friday morning, saying that the Cabinet reshuffle was an “outrage”.
“This is the only way we can stop the capture of National Treasury‚ and prevent the Gupta proxies from getting access to our money,” SaveSA said in a statement.
“The Cabinet reshuffle is an insult to the suffering of millions of South Africans over many decades. It is a brazen attempt to undermine the gains of the liberation struggle by taking power away from the people handing it over to a clique based in Dubai.”
Saftu’s convener, Zwelinzima Vavi, reiterated the call for people to assemble in Pretoria.
“Saftu calls on workers and all South Africans to assembly at Church Square at 10am to occupy Treasury. It’s a peaceful demonstration. Bring a South African flag,” Vavi said.
Activists suggest demonstrations could be replicated in other cities.