South African President Jacob Zuma has instructed Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to return immediately from an investor roadshow to Britain and the United States, the presidency said on Monday, without giving a reason for the decision.
The rand fell by as much as 1.7 percent against the U.S. dollar, bonds tumbled and banking shares slid more than 2 percent on the news. Investors see Gordhan as a symbol of stability, given weak economic growth and ruling party tensions that have put South Africa’s investment grade at risk.
Last year, fraud charges brought against Gordhan badly rattled financial markets and spurred accusations of a political “witch-hunt”. They were dropped in October.
Financial markets were also shaken before Gordhan’s budget speech last month by rumors that he might be moved from the Treasury in a cabinet reshuffle. Gordhan has said it is Zuma’s prerogative to fire him if he sees fit.
“Zuma has instructed the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan, and Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas to cancel the international investment promotion roadshow to the United Kingdom and the United States and return to South Africa immediately,” the president’s office said in a statement.
Earlier a government source said: “The presidency did not give permission for the trip.”