AND so it happened.
On Wednesday night, President Jacob Zuma removed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister.
He replaced him with David van Rooyen, a fairly unknown lightweight whose CV does not inspire the kind of public confidence needed in a man who is to manage South Africa’s fragile, trillion-rand public purse.
Minutes after Zuma’s announcement, the rand tumbled. The markets went into a tailspin. At that crucial moment, our president stood in front of business leaders and delivered an incoherent speech that did nothing to reassure citizens and investors that he had, in fact, not just plunged us into chaos.
It is common cause that the hiring and firing of ministers is the president’s prerogative.
However, in this instance, Zuma’s decision is simply reckless.
As one senior Treasury insider said, “it is a disaster” that the South African economy will severely pay for.
Since being appointed in May last year, Nene tried his best, despite increasing political and economic pressure, to be fiscally prudent and to rein in reckless spending in government departments.
By axing him with no plausible explanation, Zuma has left this nation with no option but to believe that he chose to sacrifice a credible leader who stood in the way of a dubious nuclear deal in which the president himself had been so deeply involved.
He has left us with no option but to believe that he chose to punish a globally revered minister to appease a highly compromised friend, SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni, who is hell-bent on pushing our national carrier further and further down a path of destruction.
It is an open secret that many in the ANC believe Zuma is a wrecking ball who has left a trail of destruction on every corner of the state since he took over in 2009.
The Treasury was, to some degree, a sacred cow which enjoyed a high level of public confidence. On Wednesday, Zuma dismantled that too. He opened the floodgates to what was the government’s last line of defence against looting with impunity.
The question we must ask the ANC, therefore, is how much longer will they allow our beautiful nation and the future of our children to be sacrificed at the alter of a man for whom this country will always come second?