Mass call for Zuma’s head

CONTROVERSIAL MOVE: President Jacob Zuma gestures during the swearing-in of new ministers and deputy ministers in Pretoria last night following a cabinet reshuffle  Picture: REUTERS
CONTROVERSIAL MOVE: President Jacob Zuma gestures during the swearing-in of new ministers and deputy ministers in Pretoria last night following a cabinet reshuffle
Picture: REUTERS

New cabinet members sworn in after day of nation-wide outrage

In the face of adversity, with the country still reeling in shock after President Jacob Zuma’s midnight cabinet reshuffle, a team of new ministers and deputy ministers were sworn in last night.

In a day described by some as a defining moment in South Africa’s history that will shape the future of the country, there were mass renewed calls from opposition parties and civil society organisations for Zuma to be removed from power.

Senior ANC leaders, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary- general Gwede Mantashe and the party’s chief whip in parliament, Jackson Mthembu, also publicly expressed their unhappiness at Zuma’s decision to cut Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, from his cabinet.

Gordhan and Jonas were replaced by former home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba and MP Sfiso Buthelezi, respectively, based on what Ramaphosa described as a “dubious” intelligence report which claimed they had conspired with overseas investors to overthrow Zuma.

The move is set to have far-reaching consequences for Zuma and the ANC. Gigaba is seen as a close ally of the president and is among his loyalists.

Ramaphosa, to whom some are looking to lead the revolt against Zuma by those unhappy within the ANC’s ranks, broke his silence yesterday.

“I told the president so, that I would not agree with him on his reasoning,“ Ramaphosa said. Mantashe said Zuma was aware that the ANC was unhappy about his decision to forge ahead with the reshuffle.

“This reshuffle was not done in consultation with the ANC, we were given a list that was done elsewhere and it was given to us,” Mantashe told Weekend Post’s sister publication Business Day yesterday.

“The issue, from where we are sitting, we raised the question that ministers who are being moved are not the worst-performing . . . we have a problem with that.”

The ANC’s hands are tied, however, with Mantashe reiterating that cabinet appointments remain the prerogative of the president, and that the ANC was simply expressing its view.

The reshuffle raised fears of a deepening of the capture of the state – and the ANC’s opinion that the lists were “developed elsewhere” lends further credence to this view.

Last year, Jonas admitted that Zuma’s friends and family benefactors, the Guptas, had offered him the post of finance minister.

This prompted a string of officials and ministers to come forward with similar allegations. Hours after news of the reshuffle broke, the rand dropped by 5% since its highest point on Thursday prior to the reshuffle and is set for its biggest weekly decline since December 2015.

Banking stocks were down more than 5% yesterday and bond yields climbed sharply. Meanwhile, as the DA turned to the Western Cape High Court in a failed bid to try to stop last night’s swearing-in of the new cabinet, and opposition parties rallied for support for yet another attempt to remove Zuma from parliament through a motion of no confidence, the president was in the Eastern Cape launching an agricultural hub.

In Mbizana, Zuma appeared to be in a jovial mood – giving no clues that he only hours earlier had wielded the axe – but cut his stay short, saying he had to rush to Pretoria to “fix things”. “Sixakekile, kufuneka ndihambe masinyane ndilungisa undonakele (We are busy, I need to leave soon, I am fixing a mess),” he said to his audience before he left.

Zuma was in Mbizana to launch the new Rural Enterprises Development (Red) hub which he applauded as one of the vehicles meant to curb poverty and create jobs especially for the youth.

On the other side of the country, Gordhan and Jonas addressed the media at the national Treasury building in Pretoria, where they rubbished claims they were trying to overthrow the government.

“There’s an allegation circulating around that sickens me that I have secret meetings with somebody or somebodies to undermine this country,” Gordhan said.

“Let me say emphatically and categorically that there was no such meeting. “If anyone wants us not to do this job, tell us.” In further comments, he said: “We don’t need brown bags.

Our souls are not for sale.” Gordhan said the international roadshow, from which he was recalled on Monday, was an ordinary routine one that happened every year, and they had carried on with the programme (of the day) after the recall so as to ensure there was no fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

He said they had interacted with all three ratings agencies, meeting with Moodys and Fitch, and holding a teleconference with S&P. Gordhan, meanwhile, yesterday called on South Africans to organise themselves to defend the country and make it clear that it was not for sale.

Jonas called on South Africans to “wake up and smell the coffee – is this what we envisioned for our new South Africa?” The two said they would remain members of parliament.

Political activist Barbara Hogan, partner of deceased struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada, said she believed Zuma’s actions were of a president who had gone “rogue”.

She referred to the cabinet reshuffle as a “dastardly deed done in a dark corner of the countr y” and said she was incredibly angered.

“If this was a presidency that was listening to the sentiments of this country‚ the funeral service of Mr Kathrada alone would have alerted them to the high emotions‚” she said.

“The president is completely willing to push ahead with his own postal agenda. “Surely they could have held of f‚ just a while‚ out of respect for Kathrada‚” said Hogan‚ referring to the timing of the reshuffle‚ just a day after Kathrada’s funeral.

The Kathrada Foundation and Nelson Mandela Foundation jointly called an urgent press briefing to address the cancellation of an official memorial service for Kathrada‚ which was to have been held today at the University of Johannesburg but was cancelled by the presidency with no explanation.

The foundations said the memorial would go ahead‚ organised by the foundations and other parties including the SACP, at the Johannesburg City Hall at 2pm today.

EFF leader Julius Malema said the party was working on a strategy on how best to remove Zuma. The South African Communist Party called on the president to resign. . – Additional reporting by TMG Digital, Reuters

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