THE TIPPING POINT
It is common cause that President Jacob Zuma has wanted to remove Pravin Gordhan as Finance Minister ever since he was appointed in December 2015 after his botched attempt to capture the National Treasury by firing Nene and replacing him with Gupta lackey Des van Rooyen.
He however never learnt any lessons from the van Rooyen saga. First he started with bogus criminal charges against Gordhan which backfired. Now his decision to recall Pravin Gordhan and the so called “Team South Africa” home “immediately” from an investor roadshow abroad where the top members of the Treasury together with representatives of business and labour were trying to attract investment into South Africa must surely be regarded as “the mother of all botch ups”..
Not only did the financial markets react swiftly, the rand fell more than 3 percent against the dollar, its biggest one day fall since November 10, South African bonds tumbled and banking shares slid more than 3 percent, he united South African opinion from across the political spectrum and he turned Pravin Gordhan into a new “folk hero”.
Zuma’s briefing at the confidential meetings with the “Top 6” of the ANC and a delegation of the SA Communist Party, where they were informed that there would be a cabinet reshuffle and that Pravin Gordhan would go, instantly became common knowledge. The President’s decision was purported to be based on an intelligence report that accused Gordhan and Jonas of attempting to conspire with foreign forces against the president.
The President was expected to fire Gordhan and Jonas on Tuesday morning when they arrived back in the country, but struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada passed away early that morning, forcing Zuma to delay his announcement. At the request of the family Zuma did not attend Kathrada’s funeral. Because of all the rumours circulating about Gordhan’s axing, the funeral took on the mantle of a pro Gordhan anti Zuma rally.
Pravin received two standing ovations during the proceedings firstly when he arrived. The second being when the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s CEO Neeshan Balton acknowledged the presence of Gordhan and asked him to stand and he said “Irrespective of whether you are a minister or not in days or weeks to come, you remain true to the values and principles that Kathrada would be proud of,”
In a statement around midnight on March 31, Zuma announced his reshuffle saying his decision was guided by a desire to increase the number of women and young people in his cabinet. He also shuffled ministers in the transport, energy, police, sports, public works and tourism portfolios. South Africa’s currency the rand plunged against the dollar at the news of another finance ministry shuffle.
The full extent of how irrational the reshuffle was can be judged by noting the following cabinet members:
- Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was described by Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng as being “absolute incompetent” in the Constitutional Court on 15 March 2017.
- Parliament’s ad hoc committee investigating maladministration at the SABC recommended that President Jacob Zuma to reconsider Faith Muthambi’s appointment as minister.
yet Pravin Gordhan and his Deputy Mcebisi Jonas were fired. Zuma tried to play down the ‘security’ report and Gwede Mantashe has explained that Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas because of an “irretrievable breakdown in their relationship”.
In other words honesty and ability was no criterion to be in the cabinet. One would therefore be justified in believing that Gordhan and Jonas were fired for being honest and doing their job properly.
It has now been revealed that Ngoako Ramatlodi was removed as Minister of Mines after he refused a request from Eskom’s Brian Molefe and Ben Ngubane to withdraw Gencor’s mining licences which would have enabled a Gupta owned enterprise to purchase the Optimum mine supplying the Hendrina Power Station.
Mosebenzi Zwane another Gupta acolyte replaced Ramatlodi Mines Minister and three month later he helped the Gupta family acquire Optimum colliery. On March 31 Ramatlodi was fired as Minister of Public Service and Administration and replaced by disgraced former Minister of Communication Faith Muthambi.
The reaction to Zuma’s irrational and irresponsible “Moonlight Shuffle” was swift and harsh. Once again the financial markets went into a tail spin, opposition parties and civil society were outraged and for the first time ever criticism came from within the ANC’s Top 6.
- Deputy President Ramaphosa was quoted as saying “It was preposterous. Similarly‚ my strong objection to the removal of the Minister of Finance and his deputy is being based on spurious allegations… I told the president so… I told him that this I would articulate publicly”.
- Gwede Mantashe was quoted on News 23 as saying “For the first time, officials could not agree [with] or endorse the changes. The president had to invoke the prerogative derived from the Constitution of the Republic,”
- In a statement issued on Saturday morning‚ Mkhize‚ the ANC’s treasurer general and once staunch Zuma ally stated “the briefing by the President left a distinct impression that the ANC is no longer the centre and thus depriving the leadership collective of its responsibility”.
Although the three have denied apologising for their criticism Gwede Mantashe reported that at a meeting of the ANC’s National Working Committee the three accepted that they had “made a mistake” by publicly criticising President Jacob Zuma following his Cabinet reshuffle.
While there was a collective sigh of relief with the appointment of Malusi Gigaba as Minister of Finance rather than Brian Molefe there are still some doubts about Gigaba’s Gupta credentials he was considered to be the less capture of the two. Information released in the past few days brings this assumption into doubt.
Rating agency Standard & Poor’s global was the first agency to announce, unscheduled, that South Africa’s sovereign credit rating on foreign debt had been downgraded to double B plus. (junk status) they took the decision as a result of “political and institutional uncertainty”. Within days Fitch junked both its ratings on South African foreign and local debt ratings.
At present Moody’s are in the process of reassessing South Africa’s sovereign credit rating, currently Moody’s rates the country two grades above junk.
Simultaneously, opposition parties, civil society, religious leaders and unions were planning anti-Zuma protests across the country.
Friday 7 April was dubbed “Black Friday” when more than 100,000, unofficial SAPS figures placed the number at 210 000, people marched in South African cities in largely peaceful protests to demand President Jacob Zuma quit after the cabinet reshuffle triggered the latest crisis of his presidency.
This was followed on Wednesday 12 April (Zuma’s 75th birthday) when rival South African opposition political parties joined forces with representatives of Civil Society and tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the capital Pretoria, from Church Square to the Union Buildings, calling for President Jacob Zuma to resign.
However, supporters of Zuma, like the ANC Youth and Women’s Leagues, held a rival function to mark Zuma’s birthday in Kliptown attended by about 1000 Zuma loyalists. Significantly, apart from Zuma deputy ANC secretary general Jessie Duarte was the only member of the ANC’s Top 6 to attend the function.
As much as the opposition and elements of civil society are united with a unity of purpose so too is the ANC led government a government at war with itself.
Both alliance partners the SA Communist Party as well as trade union federation Cosatu have already called on Zuma to step down as president. The extent of this anger was illustrated when Zuma was booed and prevented from speaking at the main Workers Day event in Bloemfontein on 1 May. Subsequently Cosatu have adopted a resolution to ban Zuma from all future Cosatu events.
In fighting has resulted in Pravin Gordhan and Zweli Mkhize being jeered and prevented from speaking at a Memorial Service held in Durban for Ahmed Kathrada by the ANC Youth League in defiance of a court order. The SACP believes there was a gunman at the Chris Hani commemoration on Monday 10 April who threatened the life of the first deputy general secretary of the party, Solly Mapaila. Outspoken ANC MP Makhosi Khoza was threatened with her life while on an oversight trip to Mpumalanga recently.
Senior members of the party have publicly contradicted Zuma on policy matters such as while Zuma calls for a judicial review of the commission of enquiry in Thuli Madonsella’s state capture report Cyril Ramaphosa has called for the appointment of the commission as soon as possible.
Complicating his authority has also been examples of inefficiency and corruption arising out the fiasco in the distribution of social grants followed by the appointment of Brian Molefe firstly as a member of parliament based on dodgy party membership records and then his reappointment as CEO of Eskom.
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has called on the ANC to act fast in addressing allegations contained in its unburdening report saying the claims are serious and threaten government’s capability. The organisation’s unburdening report reveals damning information from current and former government employees on how the stage has been captured by private individuals
.On Thursday 25 May a group of academics published a piece of work detailing how they believe President Jacob Zuma has managed to capture South Africa. They went into great detail, looking at the important appointments, examining how this network was set up, and investigating the roles of people like Malusi Gigaba and others.
Midway through a meeting of the ANC’s national working committee on Sunday, both the Sunday Times and the City Press splashed with what are now known as the #GuptaEmails, which appear to show exactly how it was done.
It was in this climate that the NWC held their meeting over the weekend where a motion of no confidence in Jacob Zuma was tabled for the second time in six month. Unsurprisingly the motion was defeated but if does give a clear indication that the president’s grip on the party is slipping.
Jacob Zuma and his future now hang on how the decisions of the meeting are implemented. Will the composition and terms of reference for the commission of inquiry in to state capture be acceptable how will the Brian Molefe incident be resolved, how will the constitutional court rule on the secret ballot and how will the motion of no confidence result?
This week Zuma addresses parliament on his department’s budget vote once again chaos could rule supreme.
These are the questions left hanging as South Africa and Zuma are balanced on the edge of Tipping Point ………..
Until next time…
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former Mpumalanga DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.