Disgruntled ANC leaders have followed through on their threats to publicly denounce President Jacob Zuma’s decision to axe former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
And, if they follow through on their further threats, Zuma will find himself facing off against ANC MPs in Parliament when a motion of no confidence is next tabled.
Among the 10 ministers axed is Minister of Public Service and Administration Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who has still not been officially informed of his dismissal.
The ANC national executive committee (NEC) member lambasted Zuma’s decision to reshuffle his Cabinet, saying it has probably caused irreparable damage to the governing party.
“This [Zuma’s decision] has torn the ANC apart and possibly caused an irreparable [damage], said Ramatlhodi in an interview with the Mail & Guardian on Friday.
Meanwhile, earlier on Friday, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe reportedly blamed the Gupta family for deepening divisions in the ANC, saying it had succeeded, where the apartheid government had failed, for “many, many years”, to divide the party.
Ramatlhodi said ANC leaders were no longer in charge of the organisation.
“I have been with the ANC since I was young. When you have the deputy president and the secretary general saying we were not consulted before the reshuffle, there is a serious problem. Who is in charge [of the organisation] if the top six is not in charge?” asked Ramatlhodi.
Both Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mantashe on Friday publicly distanced themselves from Zuma’s decision to reshuffle his Cabinet.
Ramatlhodi, who served in Zuma’s Cabinet as public service and administration minister, said he would challenge Zuma’s decision to reshuffle 20 ministers and deputy ministers in the next ANC NEC meeting. He suggested he would call for a motion of no confidence in Zuma in the NEC.
“We will meet there [in the ANC NEC]. I will say my thing in the NEC. When we removed [former president Thabo] Mbeki, I led in the NEC. We must always think about repercussions.
“I would want to go there [NEC] and express my view. We are a party-driven organisation,” said Ramatlhodi.
Ramathlodi said he was disappointed that Zuma did not even have the decency to call him about the reshuffle.
“A phone call [from Zuma] would have been okay. But it’s fine because they have power. I have been premier before and have reshuffled [a provincial cabinet] about six times. I would call [those affected] one by one and say thank you. I have not been called by anyone until now. That’s disrespectful,” said Ramathlodi.
Former tourism minister Derek Hanekom also said he had not received official notice of his axing.
ANC economic transformation head Enoch Godongwana said he was angered by Zuma’s decision.
“Like all fellow South Africans, although not shocked, I am angry by the removal of both Comrade Pravin Gordhan and [deputy finance minister] Mcebisi Jonas. I am not shocked because numerous attempts have been made to discredit them, including the attempt to charge Pravin for some spurious crimes. This was already an indication of finding an excuse of removing him from treasury,” he said.
He added: “During this period, some have argued that we are privileging an individual, Pravin in this case. Our case is and has always been that we are protecting the institutional integrity of treasury.
“This institution is the nerve centre of both fiscal and macroeconomic management. Accordingly, its stewardship must be at the hands of those who have an appreciation of this critical role in our economy,” said Godongwana.
He said that, like many South Africans, he rejected the removal of Gordhan and Jonas.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said in a series of tweets published on Friday morning that he distanced himself from Zuma’s actions, saying he believed the reasons given for Gordhan’s and Jonas’s axing were “plain rubbish”.
“I disagree with the removal of Gordhan and Jonas based on a suspect intelligence report. Their commitment to the NDR is unquestionable,” he tweeted.
“Their other crime is [their] defence and protection of our public purse with [the] highest levels of integrity and morality. We stand with them.”
Ramaphosa said: “The president has effected his Cabinet reshuffle. Before doing so he met ANC officials. It was just a process of informing us of his decision; it was not a consultation … because he came with a ready-made list.
“I raised my concern and objection on the removal of the minister of finance largely because he was being removed based on an intelligence report that I believe has unsubstantiated allegations about the minister of finance and his deputy going to London to mobilise financial markets against our country.
“Now, that I find totally, totally unacceptable. That a person who has served our country with such distinction would do something like that. And it reminded me of my own situation in 2001 when there was an intelligence report that said I was involved in a plot to overthrow the government of then president Thabo Mbeki.
“Now when this one came up it disturbed me greatly because in 2001, once that report came out I went to Nelson Mandela who said: ‘Don’t panic, I will handle this.’
“Because it was preposterous to even allege that a person like me would be involved in a plot to overthrow my own government. And similarly my strong to objection to the removal of the minister of finance and his deputy is being based on spurious allegations and that is the basis of my objection. And I told the president so, that I would not agree with him on his reasoning to remove the minister of finance.
“And I told him that this I would articulate publicly. So this is where we are. He has made his choice and let me say, the president has a prerogative to appoint and dismiss ministers of his cabinet. It is his choice and he has exercised his choice,” said the deputy president.
Mantashe said the party was unhappy with Zuma’s decision to replace Gordhan whom the ANC regarded as a “hard worker”.
“I can’t say we were consulted on the matter. We were given a list that was complete. My own view as secretary, I felt that this list has been developed somewhere else and it was given to use to legitimise. My own view is that I’m very uncomfortable because areas where minis ters did not perform have not been touched.
“Ministers who have been moved, majority of them are the performing ministers,” said Mantashe.
“Our views on that list counted for naught,” he added.