Former President Mbeki may wade in
By John Eche
Plans by South African President, Jacob Zuma to undertake a cabinet reshuffle that would have led to the ouster of his estranged Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, may have been presently put in abeyance over the death of the veteran ANC activist, Ahmed Kathrada.
Months ago, Kathrada had penned a very critical open letter to the African National Congress, ANC asking members to ensure that they do everything to resolve ‘the Zuma problem’ through getting him out of the leadership of the party and country.
At his funeral, Wednesday, his family members took it further: President Zuma was not welcome to attend but if he insisted on coming, he should respect himself by taking a very distant back seat.
And to underscore the fact that the displeasure was essentially one that had to do with Zuma, other senior ANC leaders and government officials, past and present, were not only allowed into the event, they got their chance to make their tributes at the event.
The roll call of public figures so honoured included former Acting President Kgalema Motlanthe the iconic Winnie Mandela, current Vice President, Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan. And they all seemed to agree with Kathrada as they respectively spoke, or alluded to the fact that there was indeed a ‘Zuma problem’ in South Africa that needs to be fixed.
And confirming that there has indeed been a protracted challenge with the ANC, former President Thabo Mbeki has subtly appealed to his fellow members of the party of Nelson Mandela to honour Kathrada by confronting the ANC’s challenges.
But even as some hope that Zuma would heed reasonable advice and let sleeping dogs lie, maverick opposition leader and former ANC Youth League leader, who was himself booted out from the ruling party by the Zuma forces, Julius Malema, has stated that the embattled South African Finance Minister will be fired after Kathrada’s burial.
While Malema may not easily be the best source of corroboration on Zuma’s plans in this regard, given his long-running rift with the embattled president, Bloomberg has however reported that Zuma has presently briefed the notable ‘AN^ top 6’ on his plans to take out Gordhan. The news organisation is also hinting that Gordhan may not be replaced by former Eskom boss, Brian Molefe, who had for a long time been touted to be Gordhan’s likely replacement.
Seemingly indicating a resolve to be even more active in the process of resolving the long-running problems of the party on whose platform, he rode into office as President of the republic, former president Mbeki says he will honour the memory of struggle hero Ahmed Kathrada by confronting the challenges facing the country and the ANC.
Speaking to the media at the Thabo Mbeki Foundation offices, he said Kathrada was correct in confronting the ANC on its shortcomings.
He said he thought Kathrada was “correct” in wanting to achieve engagement with the ANC over the issue of the national consultative conference.
He said Kathrada, whom he referred to as “Kathy”, would have been happy if this engagement would commence.
“Kathy was looking forward to that and I think it would be a real tribute to him if there is a continuation of that process,” he said.
Mbeki touched on Kathrada’s dissatisfaction with the ANC, but said he was not surprised that he had unwavering loyalty to the liberation movement.
He said the 101 elders were formed to correct the wrongs of the ANC.
“It was home to them for many decades. What Kathy wanted to do was to correct those wrongs. It was not surprising that Kathy would stay in the ANC. It’s a demonstration of his commitment to the struggle.”
When asked how he felt about the speculation around Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s possible removal from his current position, Mbeki would not be drawn into the matter, saying simply that the country should wait and see what President Jacob Zuma had planned.
“I have not spoken to President Zuma about the minister of finance. I can’t comment on speculation,” he said.
Zuma rescinded the earlier permission he had granted Treasury for a roadshow trip to the UK and US, summoning Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas back home immediately on Monday. No reason was given for the decision.
Speculation has been rife since the news broke on Monday that it was linked to a possible Cabinet reshuffle.
Gordhan, who returned to South Africa on Tuesday morning, was spotted on the 6th floor of the ANC’s headquarters, Luthuli House. It is understood he was meeting with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Gordhan left the building to attend court proceedings over his application to obtain a declaratory order from the courts preventing Treasury from intervening in the matter of Oakbay Investments versus four of the country’s big banks.
This was after they decided to stop doing business with the Gupta family.