POLITICS

Muthambi defends Zuma over Gordhan trip cancellation

'Ministers serve at the pleasure and behest of the President,' says Zuma's ally, Faith Muthambi.

29/03/2017 11:51 SAST | Updated 30/03/2017 12:52 SAST

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has defended President Jacob Zuma's decision to recall Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan from an overseas investor roadshow.

There was nothing wrong in Zuma summoning Gordhan, she wrote in a column News24 published on Wednesday.

Muthambi, a close ally of Zuma's, said he was within his constitutional rights to cancel Gordhan's trip.

"Overlooked in this hysteria is the obvious; all Ministers serve at the pleasure and behest of the President. This is a constitutional prerogative."

She accused the media of creating the "myth of a defiant and super-minister in Minister Gordhan".

It must have been difficult for the media to come to terms with the fact that Gordhan's powers are limited.

"In one fell swoop their investment in projecting an image of powerless President went up in smoke," Muthambi wrote.

The markets, banks, and rating agencies could not remove Zuma's constitutionally-enshrined powers. Financial markets could not be used to hold the country to ransom.

She said the Competition Commission had shown the rand was easy to manipulate, while ratings agencies have had to pay fines for "corrupt" practices.

Cabinet reshuffle speculation

Zuma's recall of Gordhan from the UK fuelled speculation that a Cabinet reshuffle was imminent.

Bloomberg quoted senior SACP leaders saying Zuma had told them he was planning to fire Gordhan.

On Monday, Zuma removed Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe from heading the inter-ministerial committee on communications. Zuma would now do so himself, with Muthambi's help.

This was seen as a slap in the face of Parliament, which had asked that Zuma censure her for her role in the crisis at the SABC. On March 7, the National Assembly adopted the report of the ad hoc committee that investigated the public broadcaster's board and its fitness for office.

It found Muthambi "displayed incompetence" in carrying out her duties and recommended that Zuma "seriously reconsider" keeping her in her job. Muthambi was taking the report on review.

On Tuesday, the DA criticised Zuma for "promoting" Muthambi to co-chair of the inter-ministerial committee.

"President Zuma has for too long undermined the authority of Parliament, in protecting himself and members of his Cabinet against accountability," DA MP Phumzile van Damme said in a statement.

The party intended asking Zuma why he ignored the ad hoc committee's recommendation to fire Muthambi. It would ask Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene as leader of government business.

News24

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