President Jacob Zuma has responded to “utterances” made by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on his supposed failure to consult the party’s top officials about his plan to make wholesale changes to his Cabinet.
South Africa was rocked by the president’s midnight move where he axed, among others, former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.
Nationwide marches, the downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating to junk status by three ratings agencies and a now postponed motion of no confidence vote against the president have followed the Cabinet reshuffle.
Perhaps the most notable consequence of the reshuffle last month was the public denouncement of the president’s decision by top ANC officials who claimed to have never been consulted by their party leader about his decision.
“What I do as the president of the ruling party are matters political. What I do as the president of the republic requires compliance with the Constitution and the law.
As a political party, there is a broad range of political and ideological considerations that inform what we do. On the other hand, public office requires the exercise of public power to be done within constitutional constraints, least of which is rationality. My decision to reshuffle the Cabinet was done for rational purposes,” said Zuma in his answering affidavit filed on April 13.
The president is listed as the second respondent in the United Democratic Movement’s (UDM) Constitutional Court founding affidavit in which the party calls for the constitutional court to intervene in their bid to get a secret ballot for the motion of no confidence against Zuma.
In an interview on 702, Mantashe said: “we were given a list that was complete and from my own view as the secretary general, it felt like this list had been developed somewhere else and given to us to legitimise. I am very uncomfortable because … the ministers that have been moved, the majority of them are the performing ministers. The process made me uncomfortable and jittery.”
Soon after, Ramaphosa echoed a similar sentiment, saying: “It was not a consultation because he came with a ready-made list. I raised my concern and objection on the removal of the finance minister‚ largely because he was being removed based on an intelligence report that I believe had unsubstantiated allegations about him and his deputy going to London to mobilise financial markets against our country.”
By reshuffling the Cabinet, the president believes he has legally exercised his executive powers within the constraints of the constitution. He also believes the motion of no confidence tabled against him and calls for him to step down are solely focused on the consequences of the reshuffle.
“The constitution confers upon me, as president of the country, the constitutional power to appoint members of the Cabinet. There are no constitutional constraints on the president on how that power is to be exercised or the process by which the power is to be exercised, as long as the exercise of the power is rational,” said Zuma in the court papers.