Cosatu has been the first member of the ruling alliance to publicly express their shock at the unprecedented step of removing a South African finance minister.
“Whilst we appreciate and respect that our Constitution gives the president the powers to make changes to the Cabinet, we feel that the decision was ill-timed,” Cosatu said in the statement released on Thursday morning. “Minister [Nhlanhla] Nene’s tenure was very short and the economic sector does not cope well with abrupt and unqualified changes; because that creates uncertainty.”
While sources within the ANC have said that the organisation was blind-sided by President Jacob Zuma’s decision, the party has been cautious in its public comments.
Cosatu, however, was clear in its disapproval of the decision – and approbation of Nene.
The union went on to compliment Nene as an “approachable and an engaging minister, who was forever prepared to discuss issues even if he disagreed with people”. Reports indicate that Cosatu, along with the South African Communist Party (SACP), was excluded from the consultation process on Nene’s dismissal.
The union responded to the surprise move by criticising the decision to remove Nene, saying that the fragile economic climate in South Africa required stability rather than change. It also took on the treasury, saying it is controlled by “neoliberal hardliners”.
“Cosatu also feels that what is wrong with treasury is that the mandarins and technocrats have too much power and they are neoliberal hardliners,” the trade union said.
Although the union wished incoming finance minister David van Rooyen well, it also set out its expectations of Van Rooyen to “take the nation out of this economic quagmire”. Cosatu stated that van Rooyen must withdraw the Taxation Laws Amendment Act of 2013 and should take a decision to stop the nuclear procurement deal.
The statement came as a surprise for many who expected the trade union to back President Zuma’s decision. Last month, Cosatu lashed out at Nene, saying dikats should not be used to measure the wages and employment conditions of public servants.
Meanwhile, David van Rooyen is set to be sworn in as finance minister at 1pm on Thursday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.