In the still of Thursday night, President Jacob Zuma played his final cards, putting into effect the anticipated axing of finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
In a shock move, former Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba will now take over the reins as South Africa’s new finance minister.
Gigaba’s appointment comes after the ANC’s top six rejected Zuma’s initial plans to appoint former Eskom chief executive, Brian Molefe to the position – following his claims that his working relationship with Gordhan was irredeemable.
While it was thought that Zuma would accept a ‘stay of execution’ for Gordhan until Monday, a little after midnight on Friday morning, he announced 20 changes to his cabinet which have left Gordhan out of the national executive. The reshuffle now places Gigaba in a strategic portfolio to aid the ANC’s plans for radical economic transformation.
Critics of Gordhan accused him of being a barrier to radical transformation by refusing to fund radical programmes aimed at effecting radical change.
“I have directed the new ministers and deputy ministers to work tirelessly with their colleagues to bring about radical socioeconomic transformation and to ensure that the promise of a better life for the poor and the working class becomes a reality,” Zuma said his statement.
Gigaba, who is known to be a loyal supporter of Zuma’s is no stranger to controversy on the financial front. In 2014, state security agents investigated a mysterious offshore bank account opened in Gigaba’s name in Dubai – in which money is alleged to have been stashed. But he refuted claims that he had an offshore bank account, and claimed it had been opened by one of his officials.
The appointment of Gigaba to the finance ministry is one of a few changes that appear to be influenced by factionalism. Some of Zuma’s known detractors were removed and replaced with ministers who are sympathetic towards him.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has been replaced by former tourism deputy minister Tokozile Xasa. In 2016, Hanekom tabled a motion of no confidence against Zuma at an ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.
Public works Minister Thulas Nxesi who was among those who criticised Zuma at the NEC meeting has also been shifted and replaced by police minister Nathi Nhleko. The police ministry will now be headed by former Sports and Recreation minister, Fikile Mbalula.
Minister Faith Muthambi, who has had a controversial run at the Department of Communications has now been moved to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), replacing Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Her role in the communications ministry will be taken over by former Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) deputy minister, Ayanda Dlodlo.
Now all eyes will be on alliance members and an anti-Zuma faction within the ANC which vowed to ensure serious consequences for the president if he went ahead with his planned reshuffle.