Zuma vs Gordhan: South Africans speak out as financial crisis looms

A power struggle between South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan has erupted yet again in the public domain – with potentially nasty consequences for the nation’s financial wellbeing.

The Hawks, a powerful and controversial investigative squad, is building a case against Gordhan in connection with the politician’s role in setting up a “rogue” investigative unit at the South African Revenue Service.

Revelations that the Hawks were stepping up action against Gordhan caught investors and business players offguard this week, with a sharp decline in the rand’s value against major currencies reflecting concerns.

Business Leadership South Africa has warned that the “country stands once more on the edge of the abyss”. Many citizens have reacted with outrage on BizNews.com at the prospect of Gordhan being removed from office.

“It’s like groundhog day,” said Carol Stewart, confessing to BizNews Facebook followers that she “was not calm at all” on hearing the news about the Hawks closing in on Gordhan.

Gordhan in the way of “the Zupta plan”

Summing up the main concern under “Business to Zuma: Anti-Gordhan vendetta taking SA back to “edge of abyss” , BizNews visitor SouthAfricaFirst said:

“SA is at a tipping point. Gordhan stands in the way of all out patronage, corruption and rent extraction. If Gordhan falls, SA falls…The Zupta plan is coming together. Get rid of Gordhan to gain access to Treasury funding for patronage and rent extraction…Force Gordhan to resign even though charges will never stick but that matters little… SOEs can be fully utilised for rent extraction. A downgrade will be almost certain, Rand will hit 18 to the Dollar and government borrowing costs will sky-rocket, adding to the mountain of debt which is already costing the country R500 million a day in interest costs. All this will hurt the people on the ground.”

More of Jerm's artowrk can be found at www.jerm.co.za
More of Jerm’s artowrk can be found at www.jerm.co.za

Peter Rossfour made a similar point. “South Africa under the mad reign of an obviously demented Zuma has come to a crossroads. The scenario is not good. If you corner a rat expect the worst to happen…Zuma is not concerned about the future of the country or its people, he is only concerned about saving Jacob Zuma. If the country goes down the tubes in the process it will be of little consequence.”

For Bobby Cheetham, President Jacob Zuma is steadily clawing full power from his political associates. Joining debate on the Facebook page of BizNews Editor in Chief Alec Hogg, he said: “Believe it or not, South Africa is in the throws of a strange, silent Coup. Zuma is snatching power from his own government!”

An obviously angry Leon Grobler asked: “How can that blasted corrupt Hawk (squad) be allowed to destroy our our economy? ANC man up!!”

David de Jong said he believed this move was premeditated months ago. “This was planned well before the election with the timing left till after it to avoid any negative reaction. Regardless of the results, this would have happened, coordinated with Zuma taking over the SOE task force,” he said.

MacAfrican agreed. “The timing post election cannot be a coincidence but likely has more to do with Gordhan interfering with some of the more blatant corruption of Zupta cadres – the oil deal MUST be a candidate for legal review,” said MacAfrican, referring to #oilgate – the sale of South Africa’s entire strategic oil supply for well below market prices.

Gordhan probe: Sinister smokescreen

Herman Hanson suggested that the Gordhan controversy has been deliberately stirred up to create a smokescreen for more sinister business. It’s a “classic diversion attempt”, he said, under the article: “Pravin Gordhan: My letter from special police unit”.

Nico Scheepers had a similar theory, saying: “It is all trumped up charges to get rid of Gordhan. Zuma wants to distract SA and approve the nuclear deal to benefit his family.” As did peterq, who said on BizNews: “They just want to steal ALL the money now and he is in their way.”

Picture courtesy of Twitter @eNCA
Picture courtesy of Twitter @eNCA

Conspiracy theories on currency manipulation as the main motivation have been doing the rounds, too. Mac pondered out loud: “I wonder if this is not just a money making racket? When the Rand is strong Zuma borrows R100m from the Guptas and buys US$. He then triggers a rand plunge eg. Nenegate and now Gordhan, the rand weakens by 10% and he sells the US$ at a handsome 1 month profit?”

Herman Hanson was equally suspicious about the timing of information releases and currency trades: “ZAR making a recovery; short it, get your mates to threaten Gordhan, ZAR drops and you collect. For the second time.”

Zuma does not appear to be Mr Popularity in the public domain, while the crowds have come out strongly in support of Gordhan. This is not surprising if you consider that Gordhan has been very vocal in his commitment to ensuring that state funds are used as they should be – in the national interest. Gordhan said, shortly after his re-appointment: “It’s time that individuals stop playing with SOEs [state owned enterprises] as if it’s a personal toy when you want to extract money when you feel like it.”

Tania Herwill is evidently a big Gordhan fan. She had a message for the finance minister, on Alec Hogg’s Facebook page:

“These brain dead idiots must so much as touch a hair on Minister Gordhans head and Zuma will see the wrath of the citizens of this country that he never believed possible! Stand strong Sir, don’t let these heathens intimidate you, we are behind you.”

And Macafrican received more than 16 likes for his show of support for the finance minister: “Go Pravin! Cheering like we cheered Wayde.”

There is widespread concern that the Zuma vs Gordhan clash is another sign that South Africa is heading towards a crisis. Said Renata Da Silva Dee: “And we’re at it again..2 steps forward, 6 steps back. Enough to give anyone whiplash. This is economic terrorism by Zuma.”

The news was sickening for Daryl Miltz Fleischer, who commented: “Feeling ill about our beloved country!!” Vikram Ghanekar said: “The story that has been repeating all over Africa has caught up with South Africa. Looks like he is following his old comrade great Bob from next door.”

Very few people see the Hawks circling Gordhan as good news for the nation, though BizNews visitor Sam is among them. “I think this is wonderful news,” said Sam on BizNews.

“Zuma and his cronies are upping the ante again in and end game they will not win. Think of the consequences for the moment…. Gordhan gets arrested, steps down or gets fired. What will happen? Business will rebel, as they did previously, this time hopefully with more force and courage. Most financially able South Africans will move assets off shore…at any cost. ZAR will dive, banks will withdraw lines of credit, downgrade every single South Africa institution. Property and business values will collapse. JSE will crash. Is SA really in a situation where the vast majority will accept this. The answer is NO! Zuma and his premier division are not bigger than the biggest economy in Africa.”

But most would probably rather not have the drama or agony of a deep crisis in order to eject President Jacob Zuma. Instead, support is building for protest action. Said Deon Barrett: “Zuma must fall with urgency. We are reaching a showdown where people (have) got to stop talking and start acting.”

Keith Huskisson and Sharon Thompson are among the BizNews community members in favour of a tax boycott to force change at the helm of the ANC. 

For some BizNews visitors, South Africa needs far more than mass action to get the country back on track. It needs nothing short of a miracle. Noted Zoe MaDlamini Gogela: “South Africa needs divine intervention. Heaven must save us from Zuma.” – Jackie Cameron

Join the debate on BizNews now, below this article. And, to catch up on the story so far, see:

Pravin Gordhan: No President Zuma, I won’t “present” myself to the Hawks

After SARS and SAA, Gordhan is not backing down again. It’s Zuma’s move.

HSF: Gordhan doesn’t deserve this “outrageous” treatment. Neither does SA.

Gordhan: “I don’t know whether I did the right thing taking this job?”

Business to Zuma: Anti-Gordhan vendetta taking SA back to “edge of abyss”

Nenegate Two anyone? Zuma enters crash-and-burn mode after cabinet support

Pravin Gordhan: My letter from special police unit

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