Could events at ‘Uncle Kathy’s” funeral save Gordhan? ANC top brass split…

It’s ironic that somebody almost universally respected in a revolutionary organisation has to die before those who’ve perverted its’ most noble humanitarian tenets realise how quickly the tide could turn (is turning?) against them. If Zuma didn’t wake up and smell the roses in Uncle Kathy’s funeral bouquets yesterday then at the very least he’s in for an internal political mauling all the way to the ANC’s critical December elective conference. Profoundly excluded from attending the burial ceremony by the dead man’s own wishes, Zuma didn’t see some of his own ministers and deputy ministers on their feet, clapping as former President Kgalema Motlanthe read out a letter rendered all the more powerful and damning by time and events. Penned by Kathrada and his equally-principled wife, Barbara Hogan at the time of NkandlaGate, it called for Zuma to step down. Motlanthe didn’t mince his words about the Zuptoid phenomenon – and yes, the eloquent approving response came from the stalwarts (and fresh converts) in the new struggle against State Capture, corruption and the shredding of the Freedom Charter. But as the story below illustrates, more and more seated politicians are reading an unexpectedly early turn in the tide as Msholozi grapples with a politically existential dilemma personified by Pravin Gordhan. I reckon he’ll be baying at a suddenly full moon if he fires Gordhan, because that will prompt an early high tide in which his opponents will drown him for good. It could prove a spiritual baptism and rebirth for our beleaguered and beloved country, but it will cost us dearly. The wily old impungushe (jackal) is more likely to just hide out in the dark political woods until December, if his track record of strategy and cunning is anything to go by. Let’s see if power corrupts absolutely… – Chris Bateman

by Sam Mkokeli

(Bloomberg) – Three of the top six officials of South Africa’s ruling party told President Jacob Zuma that they opposed his plan to fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Zuma told the African National Congress leaders in a meeting on Monday that he wanted to dismiss Gordhan because he was aiming to undermine the president in meetings with investors while on a roadshow in the U.K. and U.S., the person with knowledge of what happened at the gathering said. Earlier that day, Zuma had ordered Gordhan to cancel the roadshow and return home from London, causing the rand to plummet.

Zapiro’s cartoon President Zuma’s possible cabinet reshuffle. More magic available at www.zapiro.com.

The officials included Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe and Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because a public statement hasn’t been made. The six officials agreed to meet again on April 3 to discuss the issue, according to the person.

If he fires Gordhan, Zuma risks a market meltdown and a revolt by opponents in the ruling party. If he doesn’t, he may appear weak as he seeks to secure his choice as successor as party leader in December. Zuma told members of the group that Gordhan is divisive in the cabinet and thwarts efforts by other ministers to deliver services, according to the person.

“Zuma is still very hesitant whether he can remove the finance minister,” Dirk Kotze, a politics professor at the University of South Africa in the capital, Pretoria, said by phone. “Once he kicks out Pravin Gordhan, there can be sympathy resignations and he doesn’t know how to predict that. Will it be Ramaphosa plus six, seven, eight, nine other ministers?”

The rand reversed losses on Wednesday after the report on opposition to Gordhan’s dismissal. The currency gained as much as 0.8 percent against the dollar after being 1.3 percent weaker before the report.

As president, Zuma has the right to fire and appoint ministers at any time and doesn’t need the approval of the party’s top six leaders, which include Chairwoman Baleka Mbete and Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte. Bongani Ngqulunga, Zuma’s spokesman, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.

Zuma told the officials that he favored Brian Molefe, the former head of the state power company, as a replacement for Gordhan, according to the person. Molefe resigned from Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. in November after being implicated in a graft ombudsman’s report for favoring members of the Gupta family, who are in business with Zuma’s son, in awarding contracts. Molefe denied wrongdoing and Zuma has challenged the findings of the Public Protector report.

Gordhan Feud

Zuma was pressured to appoint Gordhan in 2015 after a decision to name a little-known lawmaker to the position caused the rand and bonds to plunge. Since then, he’s feuded with his minister over a planned nuclear power expansion and the management of state companies and the national tax agency.

According to the person, Zuma showed the leaders an intelligence report, seen by Bloomberg, stating that the Ministry of Finance and the National Treasury stand together against the president, and that Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, had set up secret meetings to start what is called Operation Check Mate to undermine Zuma. Ramaphosa, Mantashe and Mkhize dismissed the findings and said they reserved the right to publicly oppose any decision to fire Gordhan, the person said.

Zuma’s move to cut short the finance minister’s roadshow is a concern for the country, Mkhize said at an event in Johannesburg Wednesday. The ruling party has a responsibility to ensure the nation’s economy stability and growth, he said.

Treasury spokeswoman Yolisa Tyantsi didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment.

The South African Communist Party, which is an ally of the ANC and has criticized Zuma, will brief reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday morning.

“Gordhan is well-respected by virtually everyone bar the president and his supporters,” said Ruth Bookbinder, an Africa analyst at Bath, England-based risk consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft. “The president is unable to sack Gordhan without risking his own position. The latest spat between the two men suggests that Zuma is trying to make Gordhan’s position untenable. Unable to fire the minister, Zuma hopes to push Gordhan into resigning.”

Zuma said to face mass cabinet walkout if he fires Gordhan

by Sam Mkokeli

(Bloomberg) — South African President Jacob Zuma faces a rebellion within his own party if he fires Finance Minister Pravin 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.

File Photo: South Africa’s President and African National Congress (ANC) party president Jacob Zuma, flanked by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Treasury General Zweli Mkhize, reacts ahead of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) three-day meeting in Pretoria, South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and some deputy ministers may also resign, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The officials would keep their seats in parliament and possibly support or abstain from a vote of no confidence in the president if it’s called by the opposition or by members of the ruling African National Congress, they said. The rand strengthened.

Zuma told the ANC’s top six members and officials of the South African Communist Party, which is allied to the ruling party, that he planned to fire Gordhan because he was blocking his policies. He ordered the finance minister to cancel meetings with investors this week in London and the U.S. and return home, causing the rand to plummet.

The president is still considering his next move. By firing Gordhan, Zuma risks a market meltdown. If he doesn’t, he may appear weak as he seeks to secure his choice as successor as party leader in December.

Political analyst Daniel Silke

“Zuma is caught between the proverbial rock-and-a-hard-place,” Daniel Silke, director of Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town, said by email. “Should he reconstitute his cabinet in his own image, he risks unleashing an unintended set of political consequences that could either fracture his own party or be the making of a rapid downfall.”

The rand gained against the dollar, strengthening as much as 1 percent and was at 12.9241 by 9:33 a.m. on Thursday in Johannesburg. The yield on the benchmark 10-year rand bond fell for the first time in six days.

Zuma was pressured to appoint Gordhan in 2015 after a decision to name a little-known lawmaker to the position caused the rand and bonds to plunge. Since then, he’s feuded with his minister over a planned nuclear power expansion and the management of state companies and the national tax agency.

Ronnie Mamoepa, Ramaphosa’s spokesman, didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

“Once he kicks out Pravin Gordhan, there can be sympathy resignations and he doesn’t know how to predict that,” Dirk Kotze, a politics professor at the University of South Africa in the capital, Pretoria, said Wednesday by phone. “Will it be Ramaphosa plus six, seven, eight, nine other ministers?”