The sack of Pravin Gordhan

Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan is a well-polished South African politician. He was a Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (2009-2014). The incumbent President, Jacob Zuma, appointed him as Minister of Finance in 2014 until March 30, 2017, when he was sacked from office in a controversial cabinet reshuffle. Gordhan was replaced with Malusi Nkanyezi Gigaba as Finance Minister. Prior to this political elevation, Gigaba was the Minister of Home Affairs with effect from May 26, 2014.

It is relevant to add that Gordhan and eight other ministers were clear victims of the cabinet reshuffle. The sack of the Finance Minister was condemned by Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, the Deputy President of South Africa. He said that the removal of the Finance Minister was unacceptable. The top six of the African National Congress (ANC) also criticized the President. However, the African National Congress Youth Wing attacked him severally for pledging his support to the ex-Finance Minister. The Presidency has cautioned the Youth Wing of the ANC’s Secretary General, Njabulo Nzuza, to desist from such negative comments against the Deputy President.

In a statement by the Presidency, it said: “We wish to reiterate that the Deputy President, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement on the matter of the Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, is consistent with the official responses of President Jacob Zuma, the cabinet of the Republic and the ruling party.

“The support of the Deputy President, Ramaphosa, on this issue is based on none other than the constitutional principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a competent court of law.”

Consequent upon this development of Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle and especially the dismissal of the finance minister, the Rand, the local currency of South Africa, plummeted with a 5% plunge in its value. In an attempt to justify the sack of Gordhan, the president said that the midnight reshuffle was about a radical socioeconomic transformation. In addition, Gordhan was initially charged with fraud, but the charges were later dropped. The former minister was also at loggerheads with Zuma for several months. It was revealed that Gordhan had consistently opposed the president during cabinet meetings before he was dropped and sent packing from the exalted office.

Let it be appreciated that the president has the prerogative to hire and fire ministers at any time, in accordance with the provisions of the South African constitution. According to the Sunday Times, a daily South African tabloid, Gordhan would be arrested after his sack from government. In its denial, the Presidency noted that the story as contained in the newspaper was the handwork of some dangerous information peddlers who wish to cause confusion and mayhem in the country.

However, a group of retired technocrats and other top government officials was of the opinion that the entire exercise of cabinet reshuffle was influenced by the powerful Gupta family. The family is said to be a heavyweight within the business caucus of South Africa. It was also alleged that the Gupta family is a close friend of Zuma, and that the ministerial changes were made in order to benefit their business empire. These insinuations were equally denied by the Government of South Africa on the ground that no single family is competent enough to swing government in its favour.

Zuma, had in the past, been accused of accelerated corruption. He was accused by the opposition that millions of Rand of taxpayers’ money were spent on a pool and other facilities in his private residence. All the opposition parties have mounted pressure that the president should face a parliamentary investigation. He was also alleged to have spent 215 million Rand, and another 31 million Rand in other construction works. The Nkandla scandal which upgraded the security concern of the president is yet to be put to rest.

The allegation that the president lied to parliament about all the structures in his private residence unrelated to security was built by the family and not the government. As more details would unfold itself in the Nkandlagate, it will become clearer that President Zuma is at the centre stage of one of the biggest corruption scandals ever recorded in the history of the Republic of South Africa. It is also clear that the Zuma political career has been enveloped with corruption scandals and deceit. For instance, more than 700 corruption, fraud, money-laundering and racketeering charges against him were dropped before he contested for the post of the president in 2009. The xenophobic president is certainly a political survivalist. He has lost all the credentials of honesty and integrity, and therefore had no moral rectitude. After all, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

In view of the fact that President Zuma mismanaged the cabinet reshuffle to the detriment of the top hierarchy and members of the ANC, South Africans have already commenced the biggest street protest ever recorded in the annals of the country. The protesters are calling on Jacob Zuma to resign as President of South Africa. This protest may snowball into other political disturbances.

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