‘I did what I had to do’ – Zuma
By Anthony Opara
Concern is rising in South Africa over how much longer President Jacob Zuma can continue to remain in office following the build up of opposition to his latest attempt to stamp his authority on his government through a long-anticipated cabinet reshuffle that included the firing of his very well-respected Finance Minister.
As if they had been waiting for news of the Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan’s sack, the ratings agency, S&P, which had largely on account of their deference to Gordhan, held back on a long-concluded downgrade of the South African economy, announced a revision of the nation’s status to ‘junk grade.’
Even the handling of the news of the downgrade has come to add to Zuma’s troubles as his new finance minister and long-time chum, Malusi Gigaba is being accused of having withheld the junk status information from the nation for days.
Within this climate, angry calls for Zuma’s ouster are raging, including one from the influential South African trade union coalition, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Cosatu, which is calling on Zuma to step down. Equally vociferous are the Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada Foundations which recently signed a joint statement to that effect.
These critics come to join elements within the opposition Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters parties, former President Thabo Mbeki, Ms. Winnie Madikezela-Mandela, former Ag. President, Kgalema Motlanthe and Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa who have expressed their disgust and outrage over Zuma’s string of toxic governance gaffes.
And underscoring the fact that he was aware of the heat being piled on him and his principal, and in an effort to mitigate the fall-outs, South Africa’s new Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has said that the S&P ratings agency had already taken the decision to downgrade South Africa’s credit rating to junk status by the time he started his job on Friday, and that he had been informed of it.
However it was to take him three days after he learned of the pending downgrade before he admitted same to the media:
“There’s so much going on in our country that changing a certain individual won’t cause a credit downgrade,” he pointed out, defensively.
The South African Parliament is expected to reconvene soon to vote on a no-confidence bill even as anti-Zuma protests are taking place all across the country.
However, the man at the middle of the storm, President Zuma is not feeling peeved as he told an audience in Pretoria that the sack of the ministers was something he had to do.
Zuma’s confidence, analysts say, is very likely on account of the fact that the ruling ANC controls the majority of seats in parliament. But he is reckoning without the fact that several close allies of the party such as COSATU, the South African Communist Party as well as members of its National Executive have presently broken ranks with him over the Gordhan sack.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa