NEWS

He's Done It: Zuma Axes Gordhan In Wide-Ranging Cabinet Reshuffle

After months of speculation and a tense week, the president has reshuffled his Cabinet and fired dissenting ministers and deputies.

30/03/2017 21:03 SAST | Updated 31/03/2017 01:32 SAST

President Jacob Zuma has reshuffled his Cabinet, removing former finance minister Pravin Gordhan as finance minister along with his deputy Mcebisi Jonas. Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigabas has been announced as Gordhan's replacement. Sifiso Buthelezi, a Member of Parliament from KwaZulu-Natal, will be the new the new deputy minister, replacing Jonas.

Ten ministers, including Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, and ten deputy ministers were affected by the reshuffle.

The statement was sent out just after midnight on Thursday, and quote Zuma saying:

I have decided to make changes to the National Executive in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The changes bring some younger MPs and women into the National Executive in order to benefit from their energy, experience and expertise.

I have directed the new Ministers and Deputy Ministers to work tirelessly with their colleagues to bring about radical socio-economic transformation and to ensure that the promise of a better life for the poor and the working class becomes a reality.

The new members are the following;

MINISTERS

1. Minister of Energy, Ms Mmamoloko "Nkhensani" Kubayi

2. Minister of Transport, Mr Joe Maswanganyi

3. Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba

4. Minister of Police, Mr Fikile Mbalula

5. Minister of Public Works, Mr Nathi Nhleko,

6. Minister of Sports and Recreation, Mr Thembelani Nxesi

7. Minister of Tourism, Ms Tokozile Xasa

8. Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Faith Muthambi

9. Minister of Home Affairs, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize

10. Minister of Communications, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo

DEPUTY MINISTERS

1. Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba

2. Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr Sifiso Buthelezi

3. Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Ben Martins

4. Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Ms Maggie Sotyu

5. Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Gratitude Magwanishe

6. Deputy Minister of Communications, Ms Thandi Mahambehlala,

7. Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms Elizabeth Thabethe

8. Deputy Minister of Police, Mr Bongani Mkongi

9. Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams

10. Deputy Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Nomathemba November.

I wish to extend his gratitude to the outgoing Ministers and Deputy Ministers for their service to the country. I also wish the new Ministers and Deputy Ministers the best in their new responsibilities.

Gigaba took over the leadership of the ANC Youth League from Peter Mokaba and was re-elected three times in a row. His was a quiet watch as the longest-serving youth league president, from 1996 to 2004, and he earned the unflattering epithet of lapdog to then-president Thabo Mbeki. He was appointed as deputy home affairs minister in 1996. But he was careful to throw his lot in with Zuma when he replaced Mbeki and his star really rose under his fellow KwaZulu-Natal native. He received senior positions such as Minister of Public Enterprises in November 2010. His move to Home Affairs in May 2014 was seen as a demotion. He however continued to align himself closely with Zuma -- and the controversial Gupta family -- and was said to be eyeing a position in the ANC top six.

Buthelezi became an MP in 2016. In March 2016, the Mail & Guardian reported that Buthelezi is a close Zuma ally and the chief operations officer and director of the Makana Investment Corporation –- an investment vehicle for ex-political prisoners, particularly those from Robben Island.

Rumours that Zuma was about to reshuffle his Cabinet, specifically removing Gordhan, Jonas, or both from their posts has being doing the rounds for well over a year.

Curious charges hung over Gordhan's head for months, until they were finally dropped in October last year, leading to rumours that the charges were trumped up to be used by Zuma as a premise for sacking the finance minister.

In February, speculation revved up a notch when former Eskom boss, Brian Molefe was suddenly parachuted into Parliament at an MP. It was widely rumoured that this was a precursor to his eventual ascendency to the finance ministry, as either minister or deputy minister.

But the speculation reached fever pitch on Monday when Zuma instructed Gordhan and Jonas to return home from an international investor roadshow. He gave no reasons for the instruction, in a terse statement, but it was widely reported as down to an intelligence report, the so-called "Operation Checkmate" document. The report claimed that Gordhan and Jonas planned to meet foreign businesses to discredit Zuma and that was the reason for their recall from the overseas trip, according to reports.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) earlier on Thursday said the party was informed by President Jacob Zuma of his intention to axe Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, and that the party disagreed with the move.

Speaking at a briefing on Thursday morning at their headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, SACP second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila had high praise for Gordhan, saying he should not be fired.

"Comrade Pravin has run that ministry with absolute cleanliness. That is what has impressed us: it is one of the best-run departments. Other ministries should be emulating it. For us as the SACP governance, and clean governance in particular, has become a critical pillar of the national democratic revolution at this current period."

Mapaila along with EFF leader Julius Malema rubbished the so-called "Operation Checkmate" report.

There has been increasing opposition to Zuma following a pivotal moment of resistance at the funeral of struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada on Wednesday.

There were plenty of hints around dissatisfaction with Zuma and his leadership, including a heavy-hitting speech by Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party.

But former president Kgalema Motlanthe's eulogy contained the most hard-hitting criticisms of Zuma, using Kathrada's own words calling for Zuma to step down to thunderous applause — including from his own ministers.

There were reports earlier on Thursday that Zuma faced a rebellion within his own party if he fires Gordhan, with about 12 ministers considering resigning their positions and then fighting for the president's removal, according to four people familiar with the situation, News24 reported. This could explain why so many ministers were axed.

It was expected for some time that Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi would lose their jobs after they reportedly called on Zuma to step down in November last year, at a heated NEC meeting. They were both prominent presences at Kathrada's funeral too. Hanekom got the chop but Motsoaledi was retained.