The ANC says it did not discuss the recalling of president Jacob Zuma from his position, despite increasing calls from ordinary South Africans for him to be shown the door.
Numerous demonstrations and protest marches across the country were planned for Wednesday to put pressure on the ruling party to relieve Zuma of his duties as the country’s president.
This followed his costly decision last week to fire Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replace him with a relatively unknown ANC MP David Van Rooyen.
Zuma has since bowed to pressure – particularly from the business sector – and reversed his earlier decision. He reappointed Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and moved Van Rooyen, who held the position to the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs portfolio for only four days.
But organisers of the marches say Zuma’s decision to reappoint Gordhan was a little too late. “The issue at heart is that the president has broken his trust with the nation because he didn’t put the nation first as he pledged when he became president in the first place,” Unite Against Corruption spokesperson Johan de Meyer was quoted as saying.
The Mail & Guardian understands the ANC was forced to put pressure on Zuma to reconsider his decision on the appointment of the finance minister after a warning by major South African banks that investors were pulling out from the country and that the situation was likely to worsen if no drastic measures were taken. The markets reacted unambiguously, with the rand plunging to a record low against the dollar after Zuma’s decision to remove Nene.
“We don’t support their call”
Addressing journalists in Johannesburg yesterday following the ANC’s extended national working committee meeting, party deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said the party was aware of the planned countrywide marches but it did not support the call.
Duarte said ANC veteran Barbara Horgan and Shaka Sisulu, the grandson of ANC stalwart and icon Walter Sisulu, were among ANC members who would join the march but later retracted it in a statement. Sisulu was among the first ANC members to break ranks with the party when he condemned the decision to remove Nene. In a statement earlier in the week, Horgan said that Zuma had crossed the line by firing Nene.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the party did not discuss Zuma’s recall from office.
Duarte poured cold water to reports that Zuma’s decision to reappoint Gordhan came after deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa threatened to resign. “He [Ramaphosa] has been working closely with us since last Thursday. He was with us last night and on Sunday, and when the president [Zuma] accepted an indication that change [to his decision to appoint Van Rooyen as new finance minister] was needed,” said Duarte.
ANC policy head Jeff Radebe was quick to correct Duarte after journalists asked her to clarify what she meant when she said Zuma accepted an indication that change to his decision to appoint Van Rooyen was needed. There has been speculation that ANC officials and bank CEOs forced Zuma to change his decision.
The Mail & Guardian reported last week that Zuma’s decision to fire Nene did not sit well with senior ANC leaders, including Ramaphosa and party secretary general Gwede Mantashe, whose absence was conspicuous during Tuesday’s press briefing.
Duarte said the ANC did not foresee the impact Nene’s removal would have on the markets. “We knew there would be movements in the market because Van Rooyen is young. When Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan were [first] appointed finance ministers], there was an impact in the market,” said Duarte.
ANC national working committee member and Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the party was happy with Zuma’s explanation after a robust NWC meeting yesterday. “Hard questions [by ANC leaders] were asked and the president responded to those.”
Kodwa dismissed claims that Nene declined president Zuma’s offer to reappoint him as finance minister after the backlash. Zuma’s official explanation was that Nene was South Africa’s candidate to head up the African regional center of the new Brics development bank that would be based in Johannesburg. But government sources say the real reason behind Nene’s removal was the fallout between him and South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni – a close confidant of president Zuma.
A week before he was fired, Nene instructed SAA not to amend a transaction he had already signed off on with Airbus, saying it would be costly for the airline and the fiscus. Nene has also been reluctant to sign off the nuclear power programme expected to cost between R400-billion and R1-trillion. In his briefing to the media on Monday, Gordhan said he had no intension to change decisions taken by Nene unless there were compelling reasons to do so.